Photo: AP

November 19th was a low point, to say the least. Allowing 9 goals on 34 shots, the Blackhawks humiliated themselves in front of a giddy Edmonton crowd that, despite the cliche of Canadians’ courtesy and good manners, took to taunting the ‘Hawks in the 3rd period.

Apparently all bets are off when the puck drops.

So thousands of television sets all over Chicagoland were damaged by flying objects hurtled by frustrated fans, and the Blackhawks left Alberta having left their egos, their confidence, and any illusions of dominating Western Conference opponents splattered all over the Rexall Place ice. It took a crime scene remediation team four days to clean it up.

Tonight the Blackhawks return to Edmonton having tinkered with the lineup somewhat, and hopefully having adjusted their attitude about playing teams that sit last in their Division and well out of a playoff spot. We’ll know by the end of the first period whether that’s true.

Edmonton continues to flounder both on the road and at home. Following a January 2nd win over the Blackhawks at the U.C., they proceeded to go 3-7-2 over the rest of the month. Two of those wins went past regulation time, and the other was a 1-goal game. On the other hand, their losses are frequently epic and lopsided: 4-1 against Dallas, 6-2 against Calagary, and 5-0 at the hands of the Ducks. If the Oilers’ defense performs, they have a shot. If not, they go down like Paris Hilton on a long weekend at Norfolk.

Speaking of ups and downs, Edmonton “starting” goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who won every game he played in between October 17th and November 8th, now hasn’t won a game since before Christmas. Subsequently, 6’5″ monstrosity and Oilers’ “backup” netminder Devan Dubnyk has started 5 of the last 7 games, and will be in goal tonight. It was Dubnyk that we faced in Chicago during the 4-3 loss back in January.

On the front ranks for Edmonton, youngster Taylor Hall had a field day against us during that 9-2 win, notching his second career hat-trick. He, along with second-year pro Jordan Eberle and long-time Edmonton fan favorite Ryan Smyth make up the trio of firepower we will be facing tonight.

Another thing to be mindful of this evening is penalties. For all their faults, Edmonton’s power play is formidable: 3rd in the league. A big reason for that is Taylor Hall, who has 10 PPG so far this season — also 3rd in the league. You’ll recall, the Edmonton game was when former Blackhawk Daniel Carcillo (I know, I know…) boarded the Oilers’ Tom Gilbert, injuring both players’ knees and resulting in a 5-minute power play for Edmonton. The Oilers then took the lead by slamming home 2 goals during that man advantage. Edmonton is dangerous with the extra man, and getting a win tonight will require that we stay out of the penalty box.

That’s something the Blackhawks did well at against Vancouver: they didn’t allow a single power play opportunity this past Tuesday night. That’s no small feat against the hated Canucks. Overall, our forwards did an excellent job of back-checking and making the Canucks’ lives miserable while they were attempting to enter our zone. That’s something we will need to see the rest of the season if the ‘Hawks are planning to make a playoff run.

Captain Jonathan Toews and winger Patrick Sharp had solid, if largely unremarkable outings earlier in the week, both of them returning to the lineup after suffering injuries to their respective arms/wrists. Newcomer Brendan Morrison had the best scoring chance of the game, deftly picking Cory Schneider’s pocket behind the net and waltzing out front with Schneider down and out. More’s the pity he couldn’t bury the biscuit, or the game may have turned out differently.

But that’s in the past. Tonight the Blackhawks need to put in the same kind of 60-minute effort that they did against Vancouver, perhaps with fewer lapses from our blueline corps. Head Coach Joel Quenneville is tinkering with D-man pairings again, looking for the combinations that will stop the bleeding on the back end.

On the offensive side, the November game notwithstanding, Edmonton is one of our team’s favorite clubs to beat the crap out of. Patrick Kane has tallied 5 goals and 17 assists in 19 career games against the Oil; Jonathan Toews has 11 goals and 9 helpers in 18 contests.

From a grand-scheme-of-things perspective, this game actually has some meaning. Winning this game stops a 5-game road losing streak for the Men of Four Feathers. The last time they lost 6 in a row on the road was in the 2003-04 season — as long-time Blackhawks fans become nauseated and reach for a cold, moist towel — when the Blachawks lost (*gulp)* 19 straight games on the road. So we’re in please-don’t-fuckin’-do-that territory when the boys face off tonight.

Administrative nonsense: we have a healthy Blackhawks team to start the tilt this evening; the same cannot be said for the Oilers. In addition to defensemen Cam Barker, Alex Plante, and the afore-mentioned Gilbert, Edmonton is without rookie phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered during (believe it or not) the same game against the Blackhawks back on January 2nd. As was indicated earlier, Dubnyk starts for the Oilers; Corey Crawford will be in goal for Chicago.

8:30pm puck drop from Rexall Place tonight. The game will be carried on Comcast SportsNet in Chicago, and live coast-to-coast in Canada on TSN — second game in a row! WGN AM-720 has the radio broadcast; XM listeners should tune in to channel 212; and Sirius Premiere subscribers can find the game on channel 211.

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After practice yesterday, Patrick Kane got in front of Jesse Rogers’ Flip video camera and managed to give Edmonton a reason to come out charging tonight. Saying, among other things, “…it would be nice to get some payback,” and deriding Edmonton fans for their behavior during the game in November, Kaner turned what should be another normal game on the schedule into a grudge match.

I’m going to give him a pass on this one, let it be the one where he learns his lesson about trash talking, and move on. We’ll see what the reaction is from the Oilers and their fans tonight.

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