AT THE MORNING SKATE:
12 Oilers took to the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place Thursday, including Mike Comrie and Gilbert Brule. Both forwards will dress for tonight's game, the first appearance in seven games for Brule and 31 for Comrie.
"It's been tough to be out and away from the team any time, no matter what we're going through," Brule said after the skate. "I always want to be playing and being around the guys, but I was out and not doing much. But I am feeling better now, feeling good and back to normal."
Despite reports claiming he was battling his fourth bout of the flu this season, Brule said it was "just some stomach problems."
Comrie's health situation was more severe: in mid-November, the Edmonton native was diagnosed with mononeucleosis and went nearly two months without stepping foot on the ice. He started practicing with the team early last week and is looking forward to contributing tonight.
"I think when you're in a situation like this, the biggest thing is to create some energy and hopefully generate some chances," Comrie said. "The first few shifts are important to try to get your legs into the game. I'm playing with some guys that are creative (Brule and Ryan Potulny) and hopefully we can make some plays and get the puck in St. Louis' zone and do what we do."
Head Coach Pat Quinn expects Comrie and Brule to play their own roles tonight.
"Mike's a different player," Quinn explained. "We've seen him as a competitive player over his career, and he competes by getting those loose pucks and being an opportunist and making some offensive things happen.
"Bru, on the other side, is a developing player. He's got a terrific shot, he knows how to use it. His challenge is consistency, I think, and playing at a level that meets a good standard every night."
Two in, two out
With Brule and Comrie back in the line-up, the Oilers coaches selected Patrick O'Sullivan and Zack Stortini as healthy scratches tonight. The decision, Quinn said, was made for different reasons.
"One of them certainly, Patrick, hasn't met the expectations of this coaching staff the last little while. We think he can be a better player. With Zack, he gives you the best every night, so there's lots of different reasons why you make decisions."
"It's not rocket science here. If there's 22 guys on your roster, two don't play," Quinn continued. "This is a place to start. It doesn't mean it's forever. We've got two guys that are ready to come in, and we want them to play, so we had to choose two ... Who's to say the two guys coming in are going to be any good? I don't know. We're going to have to see on that."
JD to start
In net, the Oilers will start Jeff Deslauriers for the second consecutive game. After allowing a goal only 44 seconds into Tuesday night's contest vs. the Blackhawks, the 25-year-old goaltender pulled himself together and finished with 33 saves.
"They're at a point now where they both need to play and we're hoping that they continue to develop," Quinn explained. "I made a decision for tonight's goaltender based on yesterday's practice. One I thought practiced well and one I thought didn't practice so well."
After dropping a 3-2 decision in Vancouver Wednesday night, the Blues held an optional skate at Rexall Place Thursday morning. Only a handful of players took to the ice.
Favourite Things continues
The sixth round of the Oilers Favourite Things charity auctions continues at tonight's game, with gift baskets by Jean-Francois Jacques, Ales Hemsky & Ryan Stone up for bid.
BLUES (23-22-8) at OILERS (16-29-6)
Last 10: St. Louis 6-3-1, Edmonton 0-8-2.
Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. The Oilers took a 5-3 decision on Dec. 11 in St. Louis. Trailing 3-0 in the second, Edmonton scored with 11 seconds left in the period to get themselves on the board and returned from intermission to light the lamp another four times for the win. Blues right wing David Backes and Oilers center Gilbert Brule each had a pair of goals. In their second meeting on Dec. 21, the Blues rebounded and rolled over Edmonton in a 7-2 victory. Andy McDonald collected a pair of goals.
Big Story: When you're at the bottom of the League in standings, one would think things couldn't get any worse ... or could they? The Oilers are in the middle of an 11-game skid, where they have secured just two points in overtime losses. With just two games left in the month, they face the possibility of going winless in the month of January.
Blues: St. Louis ended its four-game win streak in Western Canada with a 3-2 lost to the Canucks on Wednesday. T.J. Oshie tied the game midway through the third period, but Vancouver took the lead once again when the puck ricocheted off Ty Conklin's right pad and into the net. Conklin was nonetheless solid in the game with 31 saves, but the loss leaves the Blues in 13th place and five points shy of a playoff position. Keith Tkachuk scored a power-play goal in the first period.
Oilers: Edmonton's most recent defeat was a 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The Oilers were outshot 37-24 by the Hawks, who scored just 44 seconds into the game on their first shot. Chicago would go on to score another three goals before Fernando Pisani would slip the puck past Cristobal Huet at the end of the second period. On the bright side, the Oilers were the only ones to score in the third, with Ryan Potulny tallying on a Blackhawks' turnover.
"We're just not a very good team right now," said captain Ethan Moreau. "They are a very good team, and they just outplayed us."
Who's Hot: David Perron has had a point in each of his last five games, while Potulny has a goal in each of his last two games for the Oilers.
Injury Report: The Oilers are desperate for good news and the return of Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) to the lineup might just be what they need. Brule (flu-like symptoms) also practiced this week and both forwards are likely to play Thursday. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back surgery), forwards Ales Hemsky (left shoulder surgery) and Ryan Stone (knee) and defensemen Steve Staios (concussion) and Ladislav Smid (concussion) are all on the injured reserve. ... Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is out with a lower-body injury, but could make his return this Saturday, while left wing D.J. King (right hand surgery) is with the Peoria Rivermen (AHL) for conditioning.
Stat Pack: Edmonton right wing Dustin Penner has five points against the Blues this season, while St. Louis center Alex Steen has four points against the Oilers.
Puck Drop: “We played like deer in the headlights. We knew it was a good team we were playing and it was like we were going to just stand there and hope nothing bad would happen.” -- Oilers coach Pat Quinn