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At the Rink: Oilers at Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues aren't looking at the Edmonton Oilers as the team with the fewest points in the Western Conference.

The Oilers, 0-11-2 against Western Conference foes this season coming off a 1-0 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday, are winless in the past eight games (0-6-2).

And on the second of back-to-back nights, all the numbers support the Blues (14-6-2) to have an easy time of it Friday.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock views Edmonton as a team to be reckoned with.

"First of all, we're looking at the last five periods they played," Hitchcock said of the Oilers. "They should have won the last five periods. They deserved to win [Thursday] night. They played great in the last two periods against Dallas [On Tuesday]. That's the five periods we're focused on.

"What their record is, is not relevant for me. It's the way they're playing. They look like they're starting to catch up. The continuity and balance between checking and offense looks like it's really caught up. They look like a team that's starting to go this way (pointing upwards) now."

The Blues are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss against the Ottawa Senators and want to get their own ship squared away after losing a 2-0 third-period lead.

"Our focus more is we did not play that great against Ottawa," Hitchcock said. "We had no legs, we had no energy. It's more about us getting our energy back.

"These are two big weekend games back-to-back. I told our players if we don't play the way they play. We don't have that type of transitional speed that they do, but I don't think that they can play the way we play. So we have to dictate. For us to win, we have to dictate the game today. That means we've got to get them stopped and we've got to get them defending, and that's the whole focus. If we make them play defense more than they want to, I think we can win the hockey game. But if we get caught in that transitional game that I saw the last five periods, it's going to be a tough go for anybody."

Left wing Jaden Schwartz said the players took the meetings Friday talking about the Oilers to heart.

"They're going to be a hungry hockey team," Schwartz said. "I saw they put up 37 shots yesterday on [Pekka] Rinne. I heard they outplayed them for a lot of the game. They're going to be a hungry hockey team looking for a win obviously. We know what that's like when you've got a couple losses in a row. You want to get that win badly. We're not going to take them lighter than we do any other team."

With a win Friday, Hitchcock can tie Mike Keenan for the sixth most career coaching victories (672) all-time. Pat Quinn, who passed away on Monday, is 5th at 684.

Here is the projected lineups:

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - Teddy Purcell

Jesse Joensuu - Leon Draisaitl - David Perron

Luke Gazdic - Boyd Gordon - Steven Pinizzotto

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Oscar Klefbom - Jeff Petry

Justin Schultz - Andrew Ference

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Keith Aulie, Martin Marincin

Injured: Benoit Pouliot (broken foot), Matt Hendricks (undisclosed)

BLUES

T.J. Oshie - Paul Stastny - David Backes

Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Joakim Lindstrom

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Steve Ott - Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Reaves

Barret Jackman - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Chris Butler - Ian Cole

Jake Allen

Jordan Binnington

Scratched: Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi

Injured: Brian Elliott (lower body), Jay Bouwmeester (lower body)

Status report: The Oilers did not skate Friday and could make a couple changes to their lineup. Schultz is expected to replace Aulie on defense. Hendricks blocked a shot by Shea Weber on Thursday and departed with a leg injury. He is not expected to play, and be replaced by Luke Gazdic. ... Hitchcock said Bouwmeester skated for a second day in a row Friday but will not play Friday or Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. "He's going to practice with us on Monday," Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester. "He'll take tomorrow off, skate full with the training staff on Sunday and he'll practice in full with us on Monday."

Who's hot: Steen has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. ... Hall has 10 points in 12 games against the Blues. ... Schwartz has six points in six games against the Oilers.

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