PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Blues
Oilers face off against the St. Louis Blues at Rexall Place
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EDMONTON, AB - Tonight when the Edmonton Oilers take on the St. Louis Blues, they will be hosting the third-best team in the Western Conference and a team that beat them 6-0 the last time they squared off. The Oilers had a strong period against the Blues, down just 1-0 heading into the second, but the game went downhill fast after that.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
“We need to stick with that game plan that we had in the first period, right through the game,” said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “We’ve run into that a few times this season where we’ve had the game plan going, everything is great and maybe we haven’t scored or maybe the team has gone up 1-0. We have a tendency to go, ‘Okay, well that’s not working’ and it is. It is working. We’re out-chancing them terribly, we’re spending very little time in our zone. We have to just do this for the full 60 minutes. It may take until the 57th minute to break them, but you can’t come off it, especially when it’s working.
“I fully understand when things are not working and you’re down in a game and we have to make big adjustments on the bench or go a different way and maybe the other team is playing a different style that night than we pre-scouted. There’s teams in the league that are doing that now, they flip in and out of systems. I understand that. But when it is going everything in your way, and maybe you haven’t had quite the success yet, you’ve got to stick with it…”
Since that loss to St. Louis, Edmonton is 3-2-2 and they hope to continue some of their recent success, especially coming off of a 5-3 win against Tampa Bay.
“It’s certainly one that we’re not proud of,” David Perron said of the game against his former team on December 21. “When games like that happen, you have to find a way to learn from it and regroup. It’s obviously been better result wise since then and it’s not going to be an easy one tonight.”
St. Louis is 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and it will be a tough task to take down one of the NHL’s elite.
“It seems like all of the teams that have success over periods of time, they never change,” said Oilers Ryan Jones. “They always seem to do the simple things, very good. These guys, they don’t beat themselves. They force you to beat them, they force you to essentially beat them at the same game. They’re going to play simple, put pucks in, get shots to the net, they have some hard and heavy guys that like to play around the net… It will be a job on everybody to keep them in (their zone) as much as possible.”
A TOUGH TASK
A big reason to the Blues success is the wealth of talent on their roster. They have 10 players who were named to Olympic rosters for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.
“It just goes to show how good they are, as a team and individually,” said Jones. “There’s a few teams that you look around the league and they have a fair amount of guys on Olympic squads and I think, when you have team success you get a little more notoriety, individually, which helps guys and hurts others. We’re not going to play them any different because they have 10 Olympians. We’ll go out there and hopefully play a similar game to last game.”
GOING FOR GOLD
Three Edmonton Oilers players will be heading to Sochi to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ales Hemsky, an Olympic veteran having played in the 2006 games, didn’t know if he would be picked this year but he is excited for the opportunity.
“It’s always in your mind, but you never know what can happen,” said Hemsky, who will represent the Czech Republic. “Obviously, we’re not in a great situation here and I have a different role on the team this year too. I was just waiting. I didn’t really want to think about it too much but on the other hand, I’m happy. I’m happy to be there and play for my country.”
Two Oilers and NHL rookies will make their Olympics debuts, joining Hemsky, as defence men Martin Marincin and Anton Belov were both named to their home countries’ rosters. Marincin will play for Slovakia, while Belov will play for Russia.
“It’s the Olympics,” said Marincin. “I think every player wants to play there. I make it, so I feel good.”
The 21-year-old Slovakian defenceman is eager to learn from the older crop of defensive talent heading to the Sochi Olympics.
““Yeah, they are older. I am young, so I will learn from these guys because they are top in the NHL.”
For Marincin and Belov, this February will be an incredible learning experience.
“I’m sure it will be an amazing experience for all of them,” said Eakins. “Obviously, (Hemsky) will be a very important part of his team and the other two young men will get some very valuable experience with those great players that will be around them.”
WELCOME TO FATHERHOOD
Oilers winger Ryan Jones became a father, for the first time, yesterday morning. His wife Jamie and himself welcomed little Lincoln Thomas Jones into the world, weighing 7 pounds and 4 ounces.
The birth came after the Oilers 5-3 win against Tampa Bay.
“I was telling (my wife) that she did not have to wait until the game was over, but I’d appreciate it if it did,” said Jones. “She was super strong and as soon as the game ended the other night, the trainers came in and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to get going.’ I fired out of here, got to the hospital and I guess five hours later, he came out.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
BLUES (29-7-5) AT OILERS (14-26-5)
TV: FS-MW, SNET-W
Last 10: St. Louis 7-1-2; Edmonton 3-5-2
Big story: The Blues and Oilers are linked by their offseason swap this past summer of forwards Magnus Paajarvi and David Perron. The Oilers seem to have gotten the better of that deal with Perron's 33 points outpacing Paajarvi's five by a large margin.
Even without Perron's production, however, St. Louis seems to be doing just fine; the Blues are in second place in the Central Division right behind the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Oilers, meanwhile, have struggled tremendously and currently sit in the Western Conference basement.
Blues: The Blues may be in second place behind Chicago, but with 63 points in 41 games, St. Louis has actually collected more points per game than any other team in the League, just edging out the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks. The Blues, who have four games in hand on the Blackhawks and have a plus-55 goal differential, by the far the best in the League, have also been winning at a blistering pace lately. St. Louis is currently on a five-game winning streak, and the Blues have one regulation loss in the past month.
Ken Hitchcock's Blues have been known for their defense, but lately the offensive has broken out as well. The Blues have scored five goals or more three times during their five-game winning streak, with two of those outbursts coming against the NHL's last two Stanley Cup champions in Chicago and the Los Angeles Kings. In their most-recent game, the Blues blew out the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-2, on Saturday night to improve their mark to the franchise's best start ever through 41 games.
"There have some really great teams in this franchise's history," Blues captain David Backes said. "It's something to hang your hat on a little bit, but we can't rest on it. It's a reality check too because it says you're only halfway through the season. You haven't accomplished anything. We've got another half-season to go and hopefully an extended playoffs."
Oilers: If the Blues are, arguably, the League's best team, the Oilers could arguably be on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Edmonton currently leads the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres by five points for the NHL's lowest point total, and is in last place in the Western Conference.
Despite that, the Oilers have actually played relatively well lately, all things considered. Since their most-recent game against the Blues the Oilers have gone 3-2-2 with their only losses coming against League heavyweights, the Ducks and the San Jose Sharks.
In their most-recent game, Edmonton beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-3, despite allowing Tampa Bay to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the second period.
"There were certainly some shifts in the second period where we didn't play well, but for the most part, our effort was good," Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. "Our execution was good. There have been a lot of times this season where we have gone into a third period tied or in a close game and we just haven't really played the way we should. [Sunday] was a different story."
Who's hot: Blues forward T.J. Oshie has four goals and three assists in the past four games. ... Hall has two goals and six assists in the past five games for the Oilers.
Injury report: Blues defenseman Roman Polak (lower-body injury) is on injured reserve, while forward Alex Steen (concussion) is out indefinitely and goalie Jaroslav Halak (illness) is questionable. … Oilers defenseman Corey Potter (groin injury) has missed five games and is questionable for Tuesday; defenseman Philip Larsen (illness) is out indefinitely.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com