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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After completing a semi-successful road trip with a win in Denver Wednesday night, the Oilers enjoyed a day off yesterday before returning to the ice Friday for morning skate.
With wins in his past two starts, Devan Dubnyk will look to make it three straight with a victory tonight vs. the Blues. The 24-year-old goaltender will be backed up by vet Martin Gerber, who was recalled this morning to replace injured Nikolai Khabibulin.
Read the press release
"Nik had some type of an ice chip or something hit his eye," head coach Tom Renney explained. "(He) felt fine with it and played, obviously, and then having it looked at by an opthamologist, suggested that we should have it looked at again when we got home just to make sure everything was kosher. They found that maybe he should rest for a few days because there was a little bit of bleeding in the eye."
Khabibulin isn't the only recent addition to the Oilers injured reserve. Defenceman Taylor Chorney suffered a right knee injury Tuesday night in Minnesota and will be placed on the IR today.
With Chorney's injury, the Oilers have opened up a spot for Gilbert Brule. Brule has missed 26 of the past 29 games due to illness, but Renney hasn't decided if tonight will mark the young forward's return to the line-up.
"He's ready to go if I want to use him," the coach said. "The numbers all fit it's just a matter of when I want to integrate him and then for whom."
Renney praised Brule's patience through the past few months.
"He's got a great attitude. He's good, he works hard, he's kept his spirits about him which is not easy when you're not playing. We just can't wait much longer in fairness to him and us. We've got to get the kid going and we see this as the opportunity, so we'll make a game-time decision as to whether he goes tonight."
BEATING THE BLUES
While Edmonton's line-up is uncertain, the club's motive is clear: earning another two points.
"Winning is way more fun than losing," Ladislav Smid said after the skate. "I think in the last 10 days or week, we built a little more confidence and the atmosphere is way better here, and I think the team has been playing the way that we wanted to play, so it's been fun."
Sam Gagner said the turning point was General Manager Steve Tambellini's Valentine's Day meeting with the team.
"We got that challenge from management. We just weren't playing well and the compete level was kind of dropping off. It happens sometimes when you find yourself kind of out of it. You kind of forget the reasons what makes you successful.
"Obviously we've got that intensity back in our game and everyone's playing with a lot of urgency and compete level," Gagner added. "It's been a lot of fun and hopefully we can keep things rolling."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
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BLUES (27-24-9) at OILERS (20-33-8)
TV -- FS-Midwest (HD); SNET-West (HD)
Last 10 -- St. Louis 4-4-2; Edmonton 5-5-0
Season series -- The Blues and Oilers are meeting for the third time this season. They've split the first two, with the Blues winning 5-3 at St. Louis three weeks ago. St. Louis has won four of the last five meetings.
Big story -- The Blues' playoff push is starting to run out of time. Thursday's 3-2 loss at Vancouver kept St. Louis seven points out of the last playoff berth in the West, and the Blues have dropped three games already this week after winning three in a row.
Blues -- How desperate are the Blues? Not enough, says center Andy McDonald.
"It didn't seem like we were a team playing for our season," he said after Thursday's loss. "We haven't been able to get that life, get that emotion and get that fire. Obviously that's not going to be acceptable if you want to get in the postseason."
Oilers -- With nothing to play for but pride and experience, the Oilers have been making pests of themselves against teams higher in the standings, winning four of their last five. That includes a 5-1 win at Colorado on Wednesday.
Who's hot -- Blues center Patrik Berglund has 8 points in his last eight games. … Two of the Oilers' prized rookies continue to make progress. Taylor Hall has four goals in his last three games and 21 overall, while Jordan Eberle has three goals in his last five.
Injury report -- The Blues have been without starting goalie Jaroslav Halak (hand), and could be without defenseman Nikita Nikitin, who suffered a lower body injury Thursday. … Edmonton is without defenseman Taylor Chorney (knee); the Oilers' top blueliner, Ryan Whitney is gone for the season with ankle surgery.
Stat pack -- The Blues have scored at least one power play goal in seven straight games, the first time they've done that since 2005.
Puck drop -- Seven points out of a playoff spot might not seem like much with more than six weeks of the season remaining. But the Blues, with four teams between them and eighth place, know that coming close -- as they did in one-goal losses to Colorado and Vancouver this week -- isn't good enough.
"We're playing good hockey, and that's a positive thing we'll take from it," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored against the Canucks. "But the points right now are crucial. Close isn't good enough right now. We've got to make sure we win."