After trading wins and losses for the last four games, another winning streak could be on the way for the Chicago Blackhawks.
They head to Edmonton Friday night with hopes of extending a series winning streak to six games while denying the Oilers their first win against a Central Division opponent.
The Blackhawks (27-12-2) tuned up for the trip north with Thursday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota with a pair of goals from Bryan Bickell and a goal and two assists from Patrick Kane. Brad Richards added three assists.
They’ve reached the halfway point in the season with some work to do in the Central, where they trail Nashville by two points. They finished the first half 14-1-0 when leading after one period and 14-0-0 when leading after two, and those numbers improved against the Wild because of Corey Crawford.
Crawford made 42 saves in easily his best of eight games since returning from a lower-body injury. Prior to the injury, he was 12-5-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average. Since, he’s 4-3-1 with a 2.98 GAA, so there’s still work to do, but his value was recognized against the Wild.
"That was a goalie win," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They were the better team tonight, for sure, and we dodged a bullet."
Crawford is 3-0-0 with a 1.59 GAA in his last four games against the Oilers.
Chicago’s five straight wins in the series have come by a 26-10 total, including a 7-1 win in Edmonton on Nov. 22 to begin the season series. Kane has nine points in those wins and 23 on a 13-game point streak in the series.
Edmonton (9-23-9) should be well rested after last playing in Tuesday’s 4-2 home loss to Detroit. Jordan Eberle scored twice and has four goals and an assist in four games.
It lost the game on the penalty kill, where it was 3 for 6 and is 5 for 10 in the last two games. Chicago is 6 of 23 (26.1 percent) on the power play over six games.
The Oilers are 0-4-5 against the Central and are trying to join the rest of the NHL with a double-digit win total on the third date of a four-game homestand.
Ten games into Todd Nelson’s term as interim coach, the team is trying to evolve into a more aggressive forecheck. Thus far, the Oilers are 2-4-4 under Nelson, and while they continue to allow far too much on the back end (3.33 goals per game in that time), they’ve seen at least some improvements offensively. Under Nelson, they’ve averaged 2.40 goals per game after a 12-game stretch at 1.45.
"We tweaked our forecheck, both in the neutral zone and the offensive zone so it’s more aggressive than maybe what they’ve played in the past," Nelson told the team’s official website. "If we do it effectively, it does create turnovers and we can attack on the rush or keep the puck alive in the offensive zone. Once again, the system only works if the guys have bought in and are playing hard and working hard with it. That’s something we’re striving for, but it is more aggressive."
Ben Scrivens, who was rested Tuesday, started but did not finish the first game against Chicago after allowing five goals on 13 shots. He’s 0-2-0 with a 5.86 GAA against the Blackhawks.
More recently, Scrivens has been strong with a 2-0-2 record and a 1.99 GAA in five games.