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At the Rink: Blues at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid will make his home debut Thursday against the St. Louis Blues, ushering in a final era for Rexall Place.

With Edmonton moving into a new downtown arena next season, the game marks the final home opener for a building that housed five Stanley Cup championship teams.

McDavid, however, is more concerned with trying to help the Oilers (0-3-0) earn their first win of the season and avenge a season-opening loss to St. Louis (2-1-0) a week ago.

"We saw them and they are, obviously, one of the best teams in the League," McDavid said. "They play a hard-nosed game, a heavy-checking kind of game. There is not going to be a lot of open ice out there and we'll have to bear down on our chances when they come."

Edmonton lost 3-1 in St. Louis on Oct. 8 and has scored three goals in its first three games.

The Oilers lost 4-2 at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and were outshot 52-28.

"I thought our attention to just about every facet of the game [in Dallas] was at a very low level," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "We didn't win in areas we needed to win. We knew what was coming and we didn't pay attention to it and we got what we deserved. It was humbling, but [Thursday] is another night. We know what we're up against, there will be no surprises and it's how we deal with it."

St. Louis outshot Edmonton 31-24 in the season opener, using its size to neutralize the Oilers' speed. The Blues want to take a similar approach Thursday.

"I thought structurally, you could tell there was a big difference [in Oilers] from previous years," Blues left wing Alexander Steen said. "They're a high-paced, very skilled team. They're a team you need to limit time and space from, so they don't have extra seconds to make plays. You have to get on them and get bodies on them."

The Blues were the first team to play against McDavid in the regular season and had high praise for the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.

"He obviously has a lot of skill and a lot of speed," Steen said. "He's young and that was his first game. I'm sure he's settled in a bit more. He's obviously someone that you want to keep an extra eye on during the game and make sure that he's one of those guys that you limit his time and space."

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start for Edmonton, making his third appearance of the season. Brian Elliott will start in goal for St. Louis.

"I expect the same game, we were in a fight for our lives the first game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We got a little bit of spacing in the third [period] but not much. This is a way different team, the way they played defensively, their gaps, their track, their reload, their checking was way different than I've seen for five years now. If this is the way they're going to play, they're going to be a hard nut to crack."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex SteenPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij JaskinDavid BackesTroy Brouwer

Scottie UpshallJori LehteraJaden Schwartz

Steve OttKyle BrodziakRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Carl GunnarssonColton Parayko

Joel Edmundson - Robert Bortuzzo

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (lower body), Patrik Berglund (shoulder), Robby Fabbri (concussion)

Scratched: Chris Butler, Scott Gomez


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsMatt Hendricks

Benoit PouliotConnor McDavidNail Yakupov

Lauri KorpikoskiAnton LanderTeddy Purcell

Anton SlepyshevMark LetestuLuke Gazdic

Andrej SekeraMark Fayne

Justin SchultzOscar Klefbom

Griffin ReinhartEric Gryba

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder)

Scratched: Andrew Ference, Brandon Davidson, Rob Klinkhammer

Status report: Hendricks has been moved up from the Oilers' fourth line to their first line to play with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. Edmonton is trying to fill the void left by Eberle, who is out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Reinhart will play after sitting out the past two games.

Who's hot: Parayko, an Edmonton-area product, has two goals in his first three games for St. Louis. Brouwer has two goals and an assist in his first three games.

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