Blackhawks return from break to host high-flying Oilers (Feb 18, 2017)
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have won five straight games, the last of which was a convincing victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
But as the two teams prepare to meet again Saturday at the United Center, the Blackhawks are fresh off a six-day break. As much as coach Joel Quenneville likes the way his team was playing before the extended stretch of days off, he hopes the Blackhawks can avoid the competitive hiccup other clubs have experienced coming out of the time away.
A prime example? The Oilers, who dropped a 5-1 decision at home to Chicago last weekend just as they were coming off their scheduled sabbatical.
"Hopefully we got a little bit of a lesson from that knowing that we have to be much better tomorrow," Quenneville told reporters on Friday.
As the Blackhawks exit the break, they face an Edmonton team that has won two straight games. After a 5-2 win against Arizona on Tuesday, the Oilers overwhelmed the Philadelphia Flyers, 6-2, on Thursday.
With the win, Edmonton reached the 70-point mark, matching its point total from last season. Right winger Jordan Eberle said in addition to riding the success of league scoring leader Connor McDavid -- who had a goal and two assists against the Flyers -- the Oilers have established a sense of self in a way they haven't in the past.
"Early on, we created a bit of an identity," Eberle said. "Anything that's happened in the past, you kind of put that away, I think this is a new team. New guys on the team. We're a new team.
"That was our mentality coming in and we wanted to start and create a new identity for ourselves and I think we've done that. We have made a name for ourselves in this league and the biggest thing is trying to keep that swagger and understand that you can beat a lot of these teams if you play the way you can every night."
While the Blackhawks' run of success prior to their bye week provided some swagger of its own, Quenneville's players understand the need to rediscover it quickly now that they're back on the ice.
Like Quenneville, Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is well aware of the struggles teams have experienced following the bye week. But rather than worrying about how to avoid falling into a similar trap, Kane told reporters on Friday that there's an easy way to do so.
"We'll just try to keep it simple," Kane said. "I think that's the biggest thing. I'm sure as the game goes along, we'll probably get a little more comfortable, too. (We will) definitely keep it simple at the start."
But as the Blackhawks prepare to play for the first time in a week and for the first time at home since Jan. 26, Quenneville knows his team faces a stiff test for its first time back on the ice.
"They're a fast, young team that's going to be exciting for a while," Quenneville said of the Oilers. "But you really have to worry about McDavid and that line, first and foremost, but they have some more depth than they've had in the past and I expect them to be more dangerous than they were last Saturday."