The Edmonton Oilers opened their three-game road trip with wins on back-to-back nights at Nashville and Dallas. They will attempt to finish a sweep of their trek when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
Edmonton rolled 8-3 over the Predators on Monday before winning 2-1 in overtime against the Stars on Tuesday.
“You do what you have to do to try to get points,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said.
Riding a three-game overall winning streak, Edmonton would match Vegas for the top spot in the Pacific Division with a victory in Chicago.
To be sure, the Tuesday result against the Stars, a fellow likely playoff club, offered a jolt in confidence as the Oilers improved to 8-3-2 in their past 13 games. Alex Chiasson delivered a power-play goal at 1:08 of overtime, and Mikko Koskinen made 42 saves.
“We have to be able to win games like this,” Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “As the rest of the year goes on, we can look back at this game. It was a hard-fought game all the way through. This is a playoff atmosphere, and this was a playoff game tonight. The fact that we can get it done tonight is definitely good for the team.”
Edmonton enters Thursday two points behind division-leading Vegas and has shown its comfort with playing any kind of game. If it’s offense the Oilers need, they can rely on league points leader Leon Draisaitl (108 points, NHL-leading 65 assists) and Connor McDavid (second in the NHL with both 95 points and 63 assists).
McDavid has eight points in the past three games, and Nugent-Hopkins has 14 points in the past eight games.
The club’s goaltending tandem also remains strong, with Koskinen and Mike Smith splitting time somewhat evenly.
“Our goaltending has been a key part of our success this year, and both guys, every time they’re in the net, they give us a chance to win,” Chiasson said.
Chicago has won three consecutive games as it jockeys to climb the Western Conference wild-card race. The Blackhawks are coming off a 6-2 home rout of the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, when they got two goals and an assist from Dylan Strome, who ended a 14-game goalless drought.
“We’re a pretty streaky team. I can’t point to one thing,” Strome said. “If we can cut the losing streaks in half, we’ll be in good shape. Lots of time left.”
The Blackhawks will play 10 of their final 16 games at home, and they hope to continue their surge behind an improving transition attack that has fueled the club’s overall game.
“We’ve playing more together in the D-zone, we’re helping each other out, getting more clean plays out of the D-zone, which leads to better offense,” Chicago winger Alex Nylander said. “We’re getting the pucks to the net, more guys are coming to the net, and we’re playing an overall solid game. We’ve been getting better and better throughout each game.”
The Oilers are set to play 10 of their final 14 games at home after Thursday.
The Thursday winner will claim the season series. Chicago posted a 3-1 home win on Oct. 14 before Edmonton earned a 5-3 home victory on Feb. 11.
–Field Level Media