Oilers game could be ugly

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers need the Chicago Blackhawks like they need a hole in the head, which is about the only injury Pat Quinn's cursed hockey club hasn't suffered this season.

From concussions to colitis and all things in between, the 12th-place Oilers have been dropping like Italian soccer players all year. And now this, a visit from a high-flying nemesis that always seems to put a big hurt on the Copper and Black and Blue.

Get the psychological ice bags ready, this has the potential to get ugly.

"It's one of those games that you have to get ready for or else you'll get embarrassed," said Ethan Moreau, well aware of the recent spankings Chicago has laid on Edmonton. "This is one of those games where you have to be 100% or ... we've seen what can happen."

Felt it, too. The Hawks have taken nine of 10 points from their last five meetings with Edmonton, trouncing them 9-3 last year and outshooting them 38-19 in a game Nikolai Khabibulin disguised to look respectable this year.

"You give a little bit of time to a team with skill like that ... and it can happen, it happened in here last year," said Quinn. "We have to be on top of our game to be able to play with them."

They weren't last time. The 4-3 Hawks win in October could have easily been 9-3, again, if not for Khabibulin.

"Our goaltender made the game respectable. It wasn't a close game at all," said Quinn.

Why do the Hawks give Edmonton so much trouble?

"Their style doesn't agree with a lot of teams, not just us," said Sheldon Souray. "They have young legs, young talent that just has a no-holds barred attitude; they just go for broke all the time. They seem to be fresh, they're always skating.

"And even though they don't have overly physical guys, they do have guys who go to the net hard. Their third and fourth line guys are guys who get their noses dirty, they go into tough areas. That alone makes them tough to play against."

And the Hawks are running as hot as they have all year. They're on a five-game win streak and just held Calgary's head in the toilet last game, going 4-for-5 on the power play in a 7-1 beatdown. The Flames haven't been that embarrassed since they got caught cutting in front of children and pregnant women in the flu shot line.

"If you take penalties they'll score on them," said Andrew Cogliano. "They prey on mistakes and if you're not ready they'll go up 4-0 or 5-0 in the first period. They think offence every shift. We don't want to get into a rush game with them. They've been beating teams like that. We have to do the job cycling and not giving them the puck in the neutral zone."

Chicago is indeed one of the few teams Edmonton can't keep up with at the best of times, and in case you hadn't noticed, these aren't exactly the best of times. They're 3-9-2 in their last 13 (although they did beat Colorado in their last outing) and had 12 players who were either injured or too banged up to practice on Thursday.

The last thing they probably want to see right now is one of the best and hottest teams in the league.

"Why would this be the last team we want to see," countered Souray. "We're trying to carve out a name around the league as a tough team to play against. This is great for us, this a great challenge. They're a good, young, fast, high-flying energetic team. We're up for it. I think this is a great match-up for us."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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