1st-place teams meet as Chicago visits Edmonton
The Circus Trip is living up to its name for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Coming off its most thrilling win this season, Chicago seeks its third consecutive victory Monday night when it visits the Edmonton Oilers, who will try to build off a career milestone from 19-year-old captain Connor McDavid.
When the circus comes to Chicago's United Center every November, it forces both the Blackhawks and the NBA's Bulls on extended road trips. Rogers Place will be the fourth stop on a seven-game trek for the Blackhawks (13-4-2), who head to California after this contest.
First, they look for their 10th win in the past 11 against the Oilers — including five of six in Edmonton. Over the past 10 matchups, the Blackhawks have scored 41 goals while allowing only 21.
If the Blackhawks are to continue their success against the Oilers, then they must do so on the heels of an improbable 4-3 overtime win Saturday over the Vancouver Canucks. With Chicago down 3-0 in the third period, Artemi Panarin, Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman scored before Marian Hossa tallied the game-winner in the final minute of the extra session after an apparent overtime goal was overturned.
Hossa also broke a 2-2 tie with 2:23 to play Friday night, lifting Chicago to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. In 10 games this month, Hossa has eight goals — including three game-winners — and two assists.
“Hossa continues to do what he's been doing all year; he's been scoring some huge goals for us. Biggest one we've scored all year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday's win.
Hossa, who turns 38 on Jan. 12, leads the team with 11 goals, and he has notched two goals and six assists in a four-game points streak in Edmonton. That includes an overtime marker that lifted Chicago to a 4-3 win on Nov. 18, 2015.
Though he has faced Edmonton only three times and taken just nine shots, Panarin — who beat out McDavid for the 2016 Calder Trophy as the top rookie — has four goals and three assists.
After Scott Darling started against the Canucks, Corey Crawford will likely be back in goal for Chicago on Monday. Crawford has allowed just nine goals in his past four road games, winning three of those contests. He is 4-1-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average over five career starts in Edmonton.
“Our goaltending is the reason why we've been doing well all year,” said Quenneville, whose team has opened up a five-point lead over the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division.
After being a league doormat in recent season, the Oilers (10-8-1) have been at or near the top of the Pacific Division for much of this season, but it has been a roller coaster ride.They are currently in a tie with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks for the top spot.
Edmonton got off to a 7-1-0 start before coming back to Earth with a 3-7-1 stretch that included a five-game losing streak.
That was snapped Saturday night when McDavid's first career hat trick helped the Oilers to a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars.
“Three pretty lucky goals,” McDavid said. “It's a funny league that works that way. You get grade-A chances and they're not going in, then you start putting it there and they are going in. It's weird that way. Definitely happy to get off that slump.”
McDavid leads Edmonton with eight goals and 14 assists through 19 games, but he has failed to score a goal in four consecutive home games. This also is McDavid's first chance to face the Blackhawks — a broken collarbone as a rookie last season limited the top overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to 45 games.
Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said the Oilers shouldn't get overly excited about the win at Dallas.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” McLellan said. “Frustrating in some areas of the game, but we can't over-evaluate a win right now. We'll take it any way we can get it. Reload and get back home.”
Edmonton has managed just three goals while dropping three straight in its new arena to fall to 4-4-0 at home. The Oilers have also scored only two power-play goals in 25 chances at Rogers Place so far.
Goaltender Cam Talbot has never faced the Blackhawks while with Edmonton. As a member of the New York Rangers, Talbot went 1-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA and .968 save percentage against Chicago.