Gameday Preview: Oilers vs. Blackhawks

Keith must step up on PK as Hawks look for sixth win in seven games

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The Chicago Blackhawks are flying high on offense lately, and they have to be licking their chops as they will face an anemic Edmonton Oilers defense on Sunday night at the United Center.

The Oilers have given up 70 goals so far this season, which is the most any team has given up in the NHL. As a result, they are in the basement of the Pacific Division with a 4-12-2 record so far this year, and they’ve lost their last two games to boot.

As for the Hawks, they are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and have scored 61 goals this season, which trails only Anaheim in that category. They have been especially lethal in their past six games, scoring 27 goals in that stretch.

Adding to the fun for the Blackhawks, the Oilers will be starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has given up 10 goals in his last three appearances for the Oilers. His goals against average is hovering near four goals this year, and his save percentage of .878% doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either.

Key to the Game: The Hawks Can’t Afford a Letdown

Despite all of the things above, the Hawks still have to be cautious against the Oilers. This is a team that is loaded with offensive talent all over the ice, and their speed will be difficult for the Hawks to contend with.

If Hawks fans are feeling particularly confident in the Hawks’ chances Sunday, consider this: last season, Chicago lost on home ice to the Oilers by a score of 6-5 in a game that they only gave up 25 shots on goal. The loss was the Hawks’ second consecutive regulation defeat at the time, and despite a furious comeback attempt at the end, it was a lackluster defensive effort overall.

If the Hawks come out of the tunnel on Sunday and act like they have the game in the bag, then they could be in for a rude awakening against a talented Oilers offense.

Oiler to Watch: Taylor Hall

After suffering an injury earlier this season, Hall came off of injured reserve this week and promptly went back to work for the Oilers. He scored in each of his first two games back, and racked up 11 shots on goal in those two contests.

Hall has quickly become one of the league’s elite wingers since being selected with the number one overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he is a huge catalyst for an Edmonton offense that desperately needs to score to make up for their defensive shortcomings.

Blackhawk to Watch: Duncan Keith

In Keith’s career against the Oilers, he has five goals and 17 assists in 31 games, but it isn’t specifically his performance against this team that leads us to put him in this spot.

As of late, Keith has been struggling a bit on the Hawks’ penalty killing unit, losing his defensive assignments and having difficulty in clearing the puck from the zone. The team is doing well in spite of those struggles, but Keith needs to step up his game in a big way as the Hawks play a team fast enough to cause the Hawks to commit some penalties on Sunday night.

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