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Edmonton Oilers vs. St. Louis Blues @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Edmonton Oilers (27-27-10-2) at St. Louis Blues (29-26-8-2).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

No team in professional sports has a longer active streak of making the playoffs than the St. Louis Blues.

That run is in serious jeopardy of ending.

A pair of teams hoping to draw closer to the final playoff berth in the Western Conference meet when the Edmonton Oilers face the struggling Blues at the Savvis Center.

The Blues have qualified for the playoffs in 24 straight seasons - the longest current streak in the NFL, NBA, NHL or major league baseball. St. Louis last failed to make the playoffs in 1978-79.

With 17 games remaining, the Blues are four points behind Los Angeles for the West's eighth and final postseason berth and two points ahead of Edmonton.

"Doing the math, it's an uphill climb," Blues forward Scott Mellanby said. "Obviously, we have only two options. One is giving up. The other is we can come to work tomorrow and keep after it and come out Thursday just as hard. We have to play and we just have to win a lot of games."

With a chance to move within two points of Calgary, the Blues allowed four third-period goals in a 4-2 loss to the Flames on Tuesday.

The defeat spoiled the home debut of new Blues coach Mike Kitchen, whose team has been outscored 7-2 during a three-game losing streak. St. Louis is 0-3-1 since Kitchen took over for the fired Joel Quenneville, and 0-4-1-1 since winning three straight.

"This was a critical game, and we blew it," St. Louis' Keith Tkachuk said. "You have to move on, or else."

Blues goalie Chris Osgood is winless in five straight decisions (0-3-2) despite allowing just 11 goals during that span.

St. Louis is 6-0-2 at home against the Oilers since a 3-2 loss on Feb. 13, 1999.

Edmonton boosted its late-season playoff push Wednesday by acquiring center Petr Nedved and goalie Jussi Markkanen from the New York Rangers for forward Dwight Helminen, goalie Stephen Valiquette and a second-round pick this year.

Nedved may benefit from a change of scenery to provide a big lift to Edmonton's offense. The four-time 30-goal scorer has had a disappointing season with 14 goals and 17 assists in 65 games for New York.

Markkanen, who spent his first two NHL seasons with Edmonton before joining the Rangers this season, will serve as Tommy Salo's backup.

The Oilers beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-4 on Tuesday on Ryan Smyth's goal - his second of the game - with 2:26 left in overtime. Edmonton improved to 4-1-1-1 in its last seven.

"I got a lucky break off the draw," Smyth said. "It went off a skate and came back to me, I kicked it up and I just found a hole."

Steve Staios, Georges Laraque and Jason Smith also scored for the Oilers - a .500 team for the first time since November.

Smyth has been Edmonton's offensive leader lately, with five goals and 12 points in his last seven games.

STANDINGS (through March 2): Oilers - 66 points, 4th place, 16 PB, Northwest Division. Blues - 68 points, 3rd place, 17 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Smyth, 20 goals and 48 points; Radek Dvorak, 29 assists; Laraque, 93 PIM. Blues - Tkachuk, 26 goals and 58 points; Doug Weight, 42 assists; Mike Danton, 141 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 2): Oilers - Power play: 11.8 percent (32 for 272), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (239 for 297), 29th. Blues - Power play: 17.1 percent (48 for 280), 9th. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (269 for 320), 17th.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Salo (16-18-6, 3 SO, 2.57 GAA); Markkanen (8-12-1, 2, 2.56). Blues - Osgood (22-22-6, 2, 2.33); Reinhard Divis (3-3-1, 3.37).


LAST MEETING: Feb. 4; Oilers, 5-3. At Edmonton, Alberta, Smyth scored twice and Shawn Horcoff snapped a tie late in the second period to lead the Oilers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 10-15-6-2 on the road; Blues - 18-9-5-0 at home.

Associated Press
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