The annual November road trip may have helped spark the Chicago Blackhawks to deep playoff runs the past two seasons, and this year’s trek may not have come at a better time.
With the circus occupying the United Center, the Blackhawks embark on a six-game trip through Canada and California beginning Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers, who have beaten Chicago twice this season.
The Blackhawks (9-9-2) ended a three-game losing streak and won at home for the first time in five tries Sunday, beating Anaheim 3-2 in overtime. Viktor Stalberg(notes), recently playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews(notes) and Patrick Sharp(notes), scored the winner for his second goal in as many games.
“The way we’ve approached the last two or three games, we like the trend, the energy in our game and the rotation of our lines as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s taken us a little while here, but I like what we’ve been doing and we have something to build on.”
Chicago had lost five of six prior to Sunday, when it had a season-high 43 shots.
“I think this was a big step forward,” Stalberg said. “We kept firing the puck. We kept taking it to them. We kept going for the win.”
In 2008, Chicago went 3-2-1 on the November trip to spark a 10-1-1 run through December, and the Blackhawks eventually advanced to the Western Conference finals. Last season’s 4-1-1 trek featured the return of Marian Hossa(notes) from injury, then Chicago went on a 15-4-0 run before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
With a locker room seemingly still reeling from the loss of 10 players from the championship team, the Blackhawks hope the road swing will help the team mesh. They don’t play at home again until Nov. 30 versus St. Louis.
“In the past, this road trip has always been good for us not only as far as how we play on the ice, but we’re still a relatively new dressing room,” said Toews, pointless in the last four games. “I think we’ll do a lot of bonding and get to know each other off the ice.”
However, the Blackhawks will be looking for an unfamiliar result when facing Edmonton. The Oilers won both meetings this season in Chicago, 7-4 on Oct. 29 and 2-1 on Nov. 7.
Those victories against the defending champions are the only two for Edmonton (4-9-3) over the past eight games. The Oilers fell 8-2 to the New York Rangers on Sunday in an ugly affair featuring a bench-clearing brawl and 124 total penalty minutes.
Chicago has won its last four games in Edmonton, one during last year’s circus trip.