Following a brief morning skate, the Oilers had a team meeting in preparation for the St. Louis Blues - a team who started out slowly but have played well as of late.
"We've been playing good hockey. Good enough to win games. We'd like to be a little bit sharper these last few games. A lot of turnovers," noted blueliner Tom Gilbert
, who was quick to point out that the play between the pipes has been instrumental certainly with the last three victories.
"Our goaltending has been huge for us. When they're playing well, we have a good chance to win."
Gilbert also reflected on playing the Blues tonight. St. Louis had won three straight before dropping a 3-1 decision on Friday in Calgary.
"They're a great forechecking team. They come very hard. It's got to be really good puck control, get the puck moving as quick as possible. They're physical. The more we get the puck moving the better we'll be."
LIFE WITHOUT SUTTON
Awaiting trial for suspension following his hit on Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog Friday, Andy Sutton
will not be playing tonight.
"He will be (missed tonight). We need to make sure we pay attention to how we want to play that area anyway and do the best we can and make sure those people who are engaged do it with a little bit of jam and fortitude."
The loss of Sutton means more opportunity for a player like Theo Peckham
, who needs to play physical.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing, when he's in the lineup he needs to deliver with that part of his game, no question about that," stated Renney. "Against a team that attacks well like St. Louis does - and they do have some heavy bodies - the way he plays is certainly at a premium."
With the suspension to Sutton, Jeff Petry
makes his return to the Oilers lineup. He was sent to Oklahoma City only 11 days ago but with Sutton's situation as well as Whitney's injury, he may now be up for awhile.
"Our hope was to put the best team on the ice that we could and if that included him, wonderful for him," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.
"We also recognized that we have an excellent coaching staff in Oklahoma City and the guy would play a lot of minutes and get lots of responsibility. It's not purgatory, that's just learning and developing, not just with him but with many others."
For Petry, at this stage in his career he knows it's all about development.
"You never know what's going to happen. One day you're here, one day you're down there. I just need to continue to grow in the areas that I need to."
Petry did not play badly in his time with the big club this season. In three games, he had a +2 rating and averaged 20 minutes of ice-time.
"I need to do the things that I was doing before I left, continue to do those things. Get the puck up ice, get back to pucks early, not trying to do too much. Make the simple plays."
Petry had an assist and was +1 in his two games with the Barons.
"I was only there for two games. Jumped right into those and felt pretty good down there. Team looks great, so it was a good situation."
was also recalled and will be arriving in Edmonton later this afternoon.
HEMSKY SKATES, NEARING RETURN
skated with the team for the first time this morning and his return could come as soon as this Thursday in Los Angeles.
"They told me three to four weeks so it's pretty much on schedule," said Hemsky. "I think three weeks we'll be at the LA game so we'll go from there."
The additional time off has helped Hemsky, who never really had the shoulder pain go away in the first place.
"I had pain there the whole three months and just couldn't get rid of it. Now it's feeling much better. I don't have the pain there. I'm feeling the best I have in a long time."
Hemsky is expected to play at some point on the team's upcoming six-game road trip and for coach Renney, any chance to get the skilled winger back into the lineup is welcome.
"It's been too long. Being without him for a game is too long. We'll see how it goes. It's pretty much on track. Once he's able to skate and participate with contact, it's a whole new ballgame for him, of course," said Renney, who added that he doesn't expect this to be a lingering issue throughout the season.
"I have all kinds of faith in our medical people. Bodies break down, that's just the nature of the game but I expect him to be there for the duration."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
: Sunday night's game marks the first of four meetings between the teams. Last season, St. Louis took three of four regular season head-to-head matchups.
: Edmonton, winners of three straight at home, looks to continue its impressive start to the season when it hosts St. Louis at Rexall Place. The Oilers, who are riding a four-game win streak, seek a jolt of positive momentum from their home crowd before embarking on a 6-game road trip beginning next week. The Blues, meanwhile, had a 3-game win streak snapped in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Friday.
: After kicking off a four-game road trip with victories over Philadelphia and Vancouver, St. Louis now hopes to seal a winning stretch away from home in Edmonton on Sunday night.
The Blues had their chances in a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Friday, but their power-play struggles continued. St. Louis sports an NHL-worst 6.1 percent conversion rate on the man advantage, and that area was exploited again when the Blues had a 5-on-3 power play for 54 seconds during the third period Friday night but failed to cash in.
"We moved the puck decent, but not terrific," Steen said. "We had two or three good looks and we had a couple of chances that we should have buried."
Brian Elliott, who was unbeaten on the season heading into Friday night, stopped 15 of 17 shots in his first loss of 2011-12. The Blues, following Sunday's game in Western Canada, will return home to Scottrade Center for six of their next seven contests.
: It may be less than a month into the new season, but Edmonton is the League's most surprising team.
After finishing with the worst record in the NHL in each of the past two seasons, the surging Oilers are 6-2-2 and atop the Northwest Division. What's more, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
, the team's first-overall selection at the 2011 Draft, leads the team with five goals and is tied for the team lead with nine points through the first 10 games of his career. His fast start prompted Edmonton to stick with the 18-year-old past his nine-game audition.
But while the Oilers have excelled offensively to start the new season, the team's improvement defensively this season has helped the team take pressure off the shoulders of both Nikolai Khabibulin
(4-0-2, 0.97 goals-against average) and Devan Dubnyk
(2-2-0, 1.98 GAA).
"We learned that our goaltending is in good shape and that our penalty kill continues to be fine," Renney said after his team's road victory at Colorado on Friday. "The back half of games we're having some trouble [though]. We've got to settle down and manage the game by managing the puck appropriately."
: While Edmonton's young talent may be stealing national headlines, veteran winger Ryan Smyth
has been a huge reason for the team's promising start to the season. The 35-year-old has compiled seven points in his last seven games, and notched a goal and two assists in Friday night's win in Denver. … Alexander Steen, who scored twice in St. Louis' 3-0 win at Vancouver on Wednesday, has mustered four points in his last three games. Steen leads the Blues with six goals and nine points in 10 games this season.
: David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), B.J. Crombeen (scapula), Andy McDonald (concussion) and Kent Huskins (ankle) are listed on Injured Reserve and will not play for St. Louis. … Taylor Fedun
(broken femur) and Darcy Hordichuk
(knee) are listed on IR for the Oilers. Ales Hemsky
(shoulder) and Ryan Whitney
(knee) are also expected to miss Sunday's game.
: Dubnyk, who pushed aside 40 of 41 shots in Edmonton's win on Friday, improved to 4-0-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .960 save percentage over the last two seasons in road games where his opponent totaled 40-plus shots on goal.
: Nugent-Hopkins has spent much of his time this season on a line with Edmonton's other recent first-round picks, Taylor Hall
(1st overall in 2010) and Jordan Eberle
(22nd in 2008). Nugent-Hopkins attributes the quick translation of his game early on this season to their guidance.
"Taylor and Jordan have been amazing mentors for me," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I'm thrilled that I get to keep playing with those guys."
-- Pete Jensen, NHL.com