Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Edmonton Oilers Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.
1. Who will step up in Artem Anisimov's absence?
After suffering an upper-body injury in the first period of Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, it doesn't sound like the veteran center will be ready to play tonight in Edmonton. In his absence last night, Nick Schmaltz went from left wing to center on the second line while David Kampf and Tommy Wingels continued to center the third and fourth lines, respectively.
Against a quick Oilers team and his ability to play any of the three forward positions, it's probably more likely Vinnie Hinostroza draws back into the lineup over Richard Panik, although it's also possible there could be more than one lineup change. The opportunity for somebody to step up in a big way is there, but will anybody take it, and if so, who?
2. One captain heating up, another trying to end a drought.
Jonathan Toews was one of the best forwards on the ice against Vancouver, with the Blackhawks registering 19 shot attempts for and only six against when he was on the ice at 5-on-5, but he failed to get on the scoresheet for the fifth straight contest. It's his longest point drought of the season, and it's not a coincidence that the Blackhawks have lost three in a row during that stretch either.
Meanwhile, Connor McDavid hasn't gone more than a game this season without recording at least a point, and he's coming in on a three-game point streak (two goals, three assists). He assisted on both goals in Edmonton's first meeting against the Blackhawks, a 2-1 overtime win at the United Center on Oct. 19. He also gave us maybe the highlight of the year with one of the prettiest assists you'll ever see.
3. Oilers getting healthy.
Since Cam Talbot returned from injury, the Oilers have won four of their last five games and they're starting to get healthy on the back end as well.
Adam Larsson started the month on injured reserve with an upper-body injury but returned Dec. 18 and has played in four games since being activated.
Andrej Sekera made his season debut last week after spending the past six-plus months recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in May.
And Oscar Klefbom, who has missed three games with a nagging shoulder injury, is expected to return tonight, meaning the Oilers will be at full strength on the blue line for the first time all season. Exactly what the Blackhawks couldn't afford to run into as they look to snap a three-game losing streak.