The Edmonton Oilers play game six of their seven-game marathon trip tonight in St. Louis, looking for their second victory. The team has played well for the most part -- particularly Tuesday night in Buffalo -- but have had trouble with their finish and ultimately getting the two points.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney knows that the team has a tough task ahead of them tonight with a St. Louis Blues squad that has been one of the League's best since head coach Ken Hitchcock took over.
"We've got to, as best we can, deliver our puck to the forwards quickly and allow our attack game at that point on go to the other end of the rink," said Renney. "Our D also need to support quickly from behind -- in other words, gap up offensively -- so we show a numerical advantage because Hitch's (Blues head coach Ken Hithcock's) team is going to come after us. They're going to try and forecheck hard."
gets the call in goal tonight.
has returned to Edmonton, while Tom Gilbert
is out once again tonight after taking the morning skate briefly. The Oilers announced today that Nugent-Hopkins will be out of the lineup for the next three to four weeks with a left shoulder injury.
Renney remarked that being without the team's number two leading scorer means everybody has to contribute that much more.
"I think everybody up front has to step up. It's one of those situations where we have a balanced looking lineup up there at least. And there's an opportunity to score, I think, on every line," he began. "We really need to try and create things with speed, tempo and going to the net."
As for Gilbert, he's probably out at least a little longer than Renney initially expected but there's no definitive timeline for his recovery at this point.
"I don't know what I should tell you there. It didn't go as well as we were hoping this morning. I have limited information but it didn't go as well as I was hoping it would go."
played his first game with the Oilers this season after being called up from Oklahoma City on Tuesday morning for the date in Buffalo. It certainly didn't go as well as he had hoped, going minus-four although he did had some outstanding scoring chances -- particularly in the third period when the game was tied 2-2.
"He was certainly better than dash-four as far as I was concerned," said Renney of Green. "He's a big, strong centreman, he can play any one of the forward positions, he understands the game well, has good hockey IQ and great experience in the game."
Renney added that the ability to call up a player like Green with his experience and poise under pressure is a bonus for the club.
"This is a guy who can really help us. The big thing for him is to leave that game where it belongs and start dealing with the St. Louis Blues."
HORCOFF BACK IN THE DOT
After being knocked around by Jamal Mayers on Monday in Chicago, Shawn Horcoff
was feeling some discomfort in his shoulder and was unable to take any draws Tuesday in Buffalo. Horcoff played on the left side and the team missed him on the dot.
However, Renney said that the day off yesterday has done wonders for Horcoff and he's likely to see some time back in the middle tonight.
"He feels much stronger now and more secure in how his body feels. He took draws and felt real good there without any issues whatsoever," stated the head coach, pointing out the importance of a healthy captain.
"We need Horcoff in the face-off circle. We need him playing at 100% in order to help our hockey club."
BREAK OUT THE BLENDER
Renney added that there's a chance that Horcoff could at least see some time between Ryan Smyth
and Jordan Eberle
"That's certainly a possibility. I may try to keep Hitch off balance a little bit by moving some people around throughout the course of the hockey game. How we start may not be quite how we finish is probably the best way to put it."
The team is also likely to go back with the Taylor Hall
, Sam Gagner
and Ales Hemsky
line. Gagner has been outstanding of late with 16 points in his last 18 games. With the loss of Nugent-Hopkins he will be counted on that much more.
"We've got to continue to push ahead. If you look at how the last game went, we had a goal called back and different things that went on that could have changed the outcome. Our effort and execution was there. No matter who's out of the line-up it's an opportunity for guys to step up and we'll do that tonight."
will likely start on the fourth line wing with Green and Teemu Hartikainen
and look for Ryan Jones
, Eric Belanger
and Ben Eager
to play as a unit.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 2-8-0, St. Louis 5-3-2
Season Series: This is the second of four games to be played between the Oilers and the Blues this season. The Oilers won the first game 4-2 thanks to a pair of goals from Ryan Smyth. Last season St. Louis won three games of the four-game series.
Big Story: The struggling Oilers are playing their third game in four nights as they and the sixth of their seven-game road trip. They've won just one of the first five.
Edmonton: The Oilers are looking to turn things around after dropping nine games in the month of December. After defeating the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks 4-3 in Chicago on Monday they were edged 4-3 by the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday. The game was tied 2-2 after the second period but the Oilers couldn't contain the Sabres in the third.
"We gave Buffalo everything they could handle. It was a winnable game for us," coach Tom Renney said. "We were very passionate, and we really tried to play within our structure. We didn't quit, and that's as important as anything."
Blues: The Blues continue to dominate under the leadership of Ken Hitchcock. With eight wins in the month of December they are fifth in the Western Conference with 49 points. After dropping three games at the end of December the Blues started the new year right with a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
"It's January and this is the time when teams take it to another level," forward Chris Stewart said. "We did just that."
Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves in the victory and is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts with a 1.45 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. Halak was happy to end the Blues' three-game skid in which they were outscored 8-3.
"After losing three straight, we had to come up big," Halak said.
Who's Hot: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner are playing together on the top line for the Oilers and have a combined nine points in two games … T.J. Oshie is tied for the team's lead in goals with Alexander Steen (13), but Oshie has two tallies in his last three games.
Injury Report: The Oilers' Tom Gilbert (knee) and Ryan Whitney (ankle) are day to day, No. 1 draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) and Alex Plante (concussion) are out indefinitely and Cam Barker (ankle) is out for two months … Ian Cole served his first of a three game suspension on Tuesday, Alex Steen is doubtful with a concussion while Andy McDonald (concussion), Kent Huskins (ankle), Kris Russell (groin), and Ryan Reaves (hip) are on IR for the Blues.
Stat Pack: Edmonton is just 6-3-3 when leading after the first period; their .500 winning percentage is tied with Carolina for the worst in the NHL. … The Blues are 8-0-3 in games in which Oshie scores. … No team makes life easier for its goaltenders than the Blues, who are limiting opponents to a League-low 26.7 shots against per game.
Puck Drop - "We're starting to play with a lot more confidence," Stewart said. "It's beginning to show. We just have to keep working and doing the right things."
-- Deborah Francisco, NHL.com