Oilers, Blues meet for a 6:00 start
The Oilers continue their six-game homestand tonight to close out the home portion of their schedule.
On Thursday, Edmonton went head to head with the Minnesota Wild - one of the league's hottest teams - and played them tough for 60 minutes but for the ninth straight game they came out on the short end of the stick.
Minnesota got off to an early lead on a first-period goal from Mark Parrish but wasn't able to increase that margin until a third-period Marian Gaborik marker.
The Oilers made it close on Robert Nilsson's first goal as an Oiler in his first game after being called up the day before from AHL Wilkes-Barre.
"To get a goal in your first game, that's a heck of a feeling," said Nilsson. "That's pretty special. It's too bad it couldn't have been part of a win too."
Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish was at a loss for words when he addressed the team afterwards.
"I went in there and they were devastated again," he said. "My message to them was that they played well. 'Let's not beat ourselves up too badly.'"
The team had this morning off due to the early start time in an effort to help recoup the ailing lineup. The only players to skate won't play tonight due to injury: Stoll, Hemsky, Moreau, Reasoner, Gilbert and Roy.
The last time the Blues and Oilers met was way back on November 16. On that night, the Oilers raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead before cruising to a 6-2 win at Rexall Place.
Blues head coach Andy Murray expects tonight's game to be just as tough of a test.
"We're expecting our toughest game of the road trip," stated Murray. "We think the Oilers will be really hungry. They've been playing hard and deserving of some wins during this last nine-game stretch and it just hasn't worked out for them."
Since November, St. Louis has made a long climb from the conference basement to 10th spot with their strong play. They lost 11 games in a row before bouncing back to a 21-8-3 record in the 33 games following.
More recently, injuries - particularly to starting goaltender Manny Legace - have slowed the Blues somewhat with only one win in their last six games.
Last game, the Blues matched Vancouver for 60 minutes but a controversial call late in regulation resulted in a Canucks power play. Daniel Sedin scored a minute into OT to give Vancouver the win.
"It doesn't help me a lot ot comment on the call," Blues coach Andy Murray said after the game. "We have our version and the referee has a different version."
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Shawn Horcoff (flu) is questionable. Jarret Stoll (concussion) is doubtful. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is doubtful. Marty Reasoner (shoulder) is doubtful. Steve Staios (knee) is doubtful. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Mathieu Roy (concussion) is out. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is out. Jan Hejda (shoulder) is out. Ales Hemsky (shoulder) is out. Petr Nedved (knee) is out; St. Louis – Manny Legace (knee) is doubtful. Martin Rucinsky (hip) is out. Dan Hinote (upper body) is out. Jay McKee (lower body) is doubtful. Bryce Salvador (fractured left clavicle) is out. Ryan Johnson (upper body) is questionable. Vladimir Orszagh (left knee) is out.
VINTAGE UNIFORMS: For the third and final time this season, the Edmonton Oilers will be wearing their vintage uniforms. Previously, the club wore them on February 27 vs. Phoenix and March 3 vs. Calgary.
OILERS TO WATCH: The three Oilers who have had the most success against St. Louis this season are Fernando Pisani, Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. In two prior meetings, Pisani has scored twice and added an assist for three points while both Hemsky and Horcoff have three helpers Brad Winchester also had his best game of the season against the Blues back on November 12 with a pair of goals Dwayne Roloson and Jussi Markkanen have each played one game against the Blues this season. Roloson stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 6-2 win on Nov. 16. Markkanen was in goal for the teams 5-3 setback on Nov. 12.
BLUES TO WATCH: With goaltender Manny Legace on the shelf, Curtis Sanford and Jason Bacashihua have had to carry the load for St. Louis. Sanford has a record of 6-9-4 on the season with a 3.11 goals-against average and .889 save percentage. Bacashihua is still looking for his first win at 0-4-1, 3.30 GAA and .897 pct. Both goaltenders are a far cry from Legaces record of 23-15-5 Rookie David Backes has really picked up his game offensively since early February. In 14 games, he has scored eight goals and added three assists for 11 points. Prior to his hot streak, he only had one career NHL goal in 22 games.
FAST FACTS: The all-time series between Edmonton and St. Louis is almost dead even at 41-40-12-1 in favour of the Oilers. At Rexall Place, Edmonton is 24-18-5 The Oilers special teams have been solid against the Blues this season. The power play is clicking along at 33.3% (5-for-15) while the club has not allowed a power play goal against in six opportunities.