Oilers look for simple success against Hawks

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:01 PM ET

Normally when a club is on a slide, the last team they want to face are the defending Stanley Cup champions.

However, considering the Edmonton Oilers cant seem to beat anybody else, the Chicago Blackhawks may be a welcomed sight.

On Wednesday, the Oilers face the Blackhawks for the third time this season, having won the first two encounters.

Were finding ways to win against them and obviously Khabby (goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin) has played great against them, hes made some timely saves for us, said Oilers centre Sam Gagner. I think the biggest thing against them is that were getting pucks in deep and playing simple.

When you play a great team like Chicago, the defending Cup champs, you have to keep things simple and make sure youre doing the right things, and so far were doing that against them.

Of the Oilers four victories this season, two of them have come in Chicago.

They skated to an unlikely 7-4 win two days before Halloween, snapping a four-game losing skid against the Blackhawks.

Khabibulin turned away 37 shots in the contest, while Marty Turco and Corey Crawford combined for just 15 saves for the Blackhawks.

Just over a week later, the Oilers pulled out a 2-1 victory, scoring two goals in a 14-second span in the third period.

Its definitely an up-tempo game when we play them, which makes it fun, said Gagner. But we have to keep things simple and when we do that, were a lot more effective. When we bring too much complexity to our game, when we try to do too much, it doesnt help anybody.

The Oilers second win in Chicago helped them get a five-game road trip off to the right start.

Things quickly went south, however, as a blowout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and another to the Detroit Red Wings brought the Oilers back to reality.

They hit rock bottom in New York City losing 8-2 to the Rangers in a contest where they gave the puck away like beads at Mardi Gras.

We have to simplify our game, but that is not always just a matter of dumping pucks in, Gagner said. Its a matter of a supporting each other so that were always open, and that way you dont have to make passes through people or make high-risk plays.

If we over-support the puck, there are going to be less turnovers and even when we do turn the puck over were going to have guys in positions to back it up. If were able to do that, were going to be more successful.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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