TONIGHT'S OPPONENT: St. Louis
Catching up with the St. Louis Blues in advance of Saturday's pivotal tilt at Rexall
EDMONTON - In a stretch dating back to the 2009-10 season, the St. Louis Blues hold a 10-1-2 record over the Edmonton Oilers.
But on a night when both teams need a win and will be battling for position in the ultra-tight Western Conference playoff race, past success matters little.
Very little, it anything at all, according to Blues forward David Backes.
"Resting on past accomplishments is what creates mediocrity," he said. "Tonight's a new night. We've got to keep pushing ahead, striving for our new best performance of the year, one game at a time. If we do that, we like our chances in this room."
With a 16-11-2 record, 6-4-0 in their past 10, the Blues sit seventh in the West with 34 points. The Oilers are 13th, three points back of the eighth-place San Jose Sharks.
"The Oilers have been playing well of late," said Backes. "They're a high-powered team and their power-play has really been clicking lately. We need to stay out of the foot race and the gun-and-run with them. They've got supreme talent over there and we know our own style of play, so if we stick with that for a full 60 minutes, we should have a good shot."
One glance at the Blues roster reveals it all. Leading-scorers Chris Stewart, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Backes and others have size (and lots of it) complementing their skill. There's nothing gaudy about their game, but it's effective.
"We're a blue collar, muck-it-up type team that likes to make it an ugly game sometimes," said Backes, the Blues captain who's put up three goals and 19 points this season. "We want to get it deep, get in hard on the forecheck and roll four lines. That's our recipe. Their recipe is a lot sexier than ours, but in the end, both teams are looking for a win however we can get it.
"It's going to be a great battle tonight."
Wade Redden is back in the NHL. The 35-year-old defenceman spent the past two seasons with the AHL's Connecticut Whale, where he was strategically assigned by the New York Rangers to keep his $39M contract off the salary cap.
He was bought out just before the season began and became an unrestricted free agent as a result. The St. Louis Blues stepped up and gave him a chance he'd so badly earned.
"Since the day I went down I wanted to get back (to the NHL)," said Redden. "I was so happy to get the opportunity again. It was a big moment for me -- emotional, but very exciting. I'm fortunate to be in this league again. It's a great honour and you don't take it lightly. To get the opportunity to come back was a big thrill."
Redden wasn't sure if he'd ever get back to the NHL, but he never stopped working.
"At certain points (I did) and I was a little discouraged because of all the ups and downs over the years," he said. "But it worked out alright.
"The Blues gave me a chance and I'm very fortunate and thankful for that."
Jaroslav Halak is expected to get the start in goal for the Blues. In 11 appearances this season, Halak has a 5-3-1 record, 2.38 goals-against average and .881 save percentage. He hasn't started since Mar. 10 at Anaheim (4-2 loss) when he allowed three goals on 21 shots.
After missing the past 11 games with a groin injury, Nikolai Khabibulin will get the call for the Oilers.
This is the second of three meetings between the Blues and Oilers, and the only game to be played at Rexall Place. Back on Mar. 1 when the Oilers were playing Game 3 of their monstrous nine-game, 17-day road trip, the Blues defeated the orange and blue 4-2 at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis is 10-1-1 in their last 10 games vs. Edmonton, which includes a 4-1-2 record in their past seven games at Rexall Place. In their last visit to Oil Country over a year ago (Feb. 29, 2012), the Blues escaped with a 5-2 victory. Kevin Shattenkirk, who's emerged as one of the League's highest-scoring defencemen this season, recorded three points.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Greenwich, CT product scored a power-play goal in their only meeting of the season earlier this month and has now collected three goals and six points in nine career games vs. Edmonton.
Chris Stewart failed to register a point and was -3 in the Blues' last game, a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. In the three games before that (wins vs. San Jose, Phoenix and Anaheim), however, Stewart had recorded seven points.
He currently sits as the Blues' leading-scorer with 14 goals and 28 points in 29 games this season. The next closest player is left-winger David Perron, who's seven points back in an equal number of games played.
TJ Oshie is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight after missing the past three games with injury. The 23-year-old has scored three goals and 13 points in 15 career games vs. Edmonton.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound rearguard has recorded a plus or even rating in each of his past 11 games.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick