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Blues-Oilers Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: St. Louis Blues (16-31-9) at Edmonton Oilers (30-20-8).

TIME: Wednesday, 10 p.m. EST.

The Edmonton Oilers hope to avoid coming out of the Olympic break the same way they went into it, having a losing streak extended by the lowly St. Louis Blues.

Edmonton returns to action by opening a four-game homestand. The last time the Oilers took the ice also was at Rexall Place against St. Louis, falling 5-4 in a shootout on Feb. 12 for their third straight loss.

While the Blues remain at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Edmonton currently owns the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.

The Oilers will welcome back four Olympians, including bronze medal winners Ales Hemsky and Jaroslav Spacek of the Czech Republic. They will join Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth of Canada, who were knocked out in the quarterfinals, for Wednesday's game.

Hemsky is second on the Oilers with 41 assists and 56 points this season, and had six assists in five games before joining the Czech team in Turin. The 22-year-old right wing earned two assists and three points in eight games at the Olympics.

His Czech teammate, Petr Cajanek, is one of three Blues who played in the Winter Games. While defenseman Christian Backman returns with a gold medal from playing with Sweden, Keith Tkachuk's Olympic experience was not as successful as the United States was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Despite earning at least a point in each of their final five games before the break (4-0-1), the Blues are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons, the longest active streak in the NHL.

They have not missed the postseason since 1978-79, when the team finished with a franchise-low 48 points.

Rookie Lee Stempniak has provided a spark lately for St. Louis, totaling six goals and two assists in seven games since being recalled from the AHL.

The Blues, whose 153 goals this season are third-fewest in the league, have scored at least four times in four of the last five games.

Edmonton has given up 20 goals over in its last four games.

STANDINGS: Blues - 41 points, 5th place, 42 PB, Central Division. Oilers - 68 points, 4th place, 5 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blues - Dean McAmmond, 15 goals; Cajanek, 29 assists; Scott Young, 37 points; Barret Jackman, 107 PIM. Oilers - Smyth, 27 goals; Shawn Horcoff, 42 assists and 58 points; Spacek, 78 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blues - Power play: 15.8 percent (58 for 368), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (271 for 334), 19th. Oilers - Power play: 17.9 percent (66 for 368), 17th. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (298 for 358), 12th.

GOALTENDERS: Blues - Curtis Sanford (10-12-4, 3 SO, 2.93 GAA); Patrick Lalime (3-11-5, 0, 3.81). Oilers - Jussi Markkanen (15-11-6, 0, 3.10); Mike Morrison (10-4-1, 0, 2.82).


LAST MEETING: Feb. 12; Blues, 5-4, SO. At Edmonton, Alberta, Dennis Wideman scored the winning shootout goal against Morrison. Smith scored twice for the Oilers and Stempniak had two goals for the Blues.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blues - 7-16-6 on the road; Oilers - 13-11-4 at home.

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