3 Keys: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, Game 2 of Cup Qualifiers

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No. 12 Blackhawks vs. No. 5 Oilers

10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, NBCSCH

Chicago leads best-of-5 series 1-0

Mikko Koskinen will start in goal when the Edmonton Oilers play the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, on Monday.

The switch was made after the Blackhawks won 6-4 in Game 1 on Saturday. Mike Smith started for the Oilers and allowed five goals on 23 shots in 26:32. Koskinen, who made his NHL postseason debut, saved 18 of 19 shots in relief. The 32-year-old was 18-13-3 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a . 917 save percentage in 38 games (34 starts) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding coronavirus. 

“I don’t look at [Koskinen] as inexperienced,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Monday. “He has lots of experience. It’s not like he’s a young guy who’s getting thrown out there for the first time. He’s a steady guy. He’ll go in and he’ll give us a solid game.”

There hasn’t been a best-of-5 series in the NHL since 1986. The League used them for the preliminary round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs from 1980-86, and the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 87.5 percent of the time (49 of 56).

Here are 3 keys to Game 2:

 

1. Adjust on penalty kill

If there was an issue for Chicago on Saturday, it was giving up three power-play goals on four opportunities. Edmonton had the best power play in the NHL during the regular season at 29.5 percent.

“They know how to find each other, all their guys on that top unit,” Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy said Sunday. “Obviously it’s not the kind of game we wanted, with how a lot of those power plays ended up. They were able to find that middle guy or even a cross-seam (pass) that kind of put us out of sorts a couple times, and then (we were) a little bit scrambly after that. We’ll just hopefully adjust.”

 

2. Defensive improvement

Tippett was not happy with his top defense pair of Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson in Game 1. Larsson had two giveaways and no shots on goal in 17:11 of ice time. Klefbom had two assists but also one giveaway and one shot on goal in 22:27.

“Both of them need to be better,” Tippett said Sunday. “We rely on them for big minutes and both of them were poor [Saturday]. We need them to be better.”

 

3. Containing the top line

Chicago’s top line of left wing Dominik Kubalik (two goals, three assists), center Jonathan Toews (two goals, one assist) and right wing Brandon Saad (one goal, one assist) combined for 10 points in Game 1. Kubalik became the first player in NHL history to score five points in his postseason debut.

“They were real good tonight,” Oilers forward Connor McDavid said Saturday. “We were out there a lot against them and we weren’t good enough against them. We have to do a better job.”

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Dominik Kubalik — Jonathan Toews — Brandon Saad

Alex NylanderDylan StromePatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatKirby Dach — Dylan Sikura

Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfRyan Carpenter

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist

Calvin de Haan — Connor Murphy

Olli MaattaSlater Koekkoek

Corey Crawford

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Collin Delia, MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, John Quenneville, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson, Alec Regula, Nick Seeler, Kevin Lankinen

Suspended: Drake Caggiula

Unfit to play: None

 

Oilers projected lineup

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Connor McDavid — Zack Kassian

Tyler Ennis — Leon DraisaitlKailer Yamamoto

Andreas AthanasiouRiley SheahanJosh Archibald

James NealJujhar KhairaAlex Chiasson

Oscar Klefbom — Adam Larsson

Darnell NurseEthan Bear

Kris RussellMatt Benning

Mikko Koskinen

Mike Smith

Scratched: Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Gaetan Haas, Ryan McLeod, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Philip Broberg, Joakim Nygard, Patrick Russell, Caleb Jones, Stuart Skinner

Unfit to play: None

 

Status Report

Sikura likely will replace Caggiula in the Blackhawks lineup. The forward was suspended one game by the NHL Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head of Ennis at 7:41 of the second period of Game 1.

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