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First-place Oilers set to host Blues

by Pete Jensen /
BLUES (5-5-0) at OILERS (6-2-2)


Season series: Sunday night's game marks the first of four meetings between the teams. Last season, St. Louis took three of four regular season head-to-head matchups.

Big Story: Edmonton, winners of three straight at home, looks to continue its impressive start to the season when it hosts St. Louis at Rexall Place. The Oilers, who are riding a four-game win streak, seek a jolt of positive momentum from their home crowd before embarking on a 6-game road trip beginning next week. The Blues, meanwhile, had a 3-game win streak snapped in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Friday.

Team Scope:

Blues: After kicking off a four-game road trip with victories over Philadelphia and Vancouver, St. Louis now hopes to seal a winning stretch away from home in Edmonton on Sunday night.

The Blues had their chances in a 3-1 loss in Calgary on Friday, but their power-play struggles continued. St. Louis sports an NHL-worst 6.1 percent conversion rate on the man advantage, and that area was exploited again when the Blues had a 5-on-3 power play for 54 seconds during the third period Friday night but failed to cash in.

"We moved the puck decent, but not terrific," Steen said. "We had two or three good looks and we had a couple of chances that we should have buried."
Brian Elliott, who was unbeaten on the season heading into Friday night, stopped 15 of 17 shots in his first loss of 2011-12. The Blues, following Sunday's game in Western Canada, will return home to Scottrade Center for six of their next seven contests.

Oilers: It may be less than a month into the new season, but Edmonton is the League's most surprising team.

After finishing with the worst record in the NHL in each of the past two seasons, the surging Oilers are 6-2-2 and atop the Northwest Division. What's more, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the team's first-overall selection at the 2011 Draft, leads the team with five goals and is tied for the team lead with nine points through the first 10 games of his career. His fast start prompted Edmonton to stick with the 18-year-old past his nine-game audition.

But while the Oilers have excelled offensively to start the new season, the team's improvement defensively this season has helped the team take pressure off the shoulders of both Nikolai Khabibulin (4-0-2, 0.97 goals-against average) and Devan Dubnyk (2-2-0, 1.98 GAA).

"We learned that our goaltending is in good shape and that our penalty kill continues to be fine," Renney said after his team's road victory at Colorado on Friday. "The back half of games we're having some trouble [though]. We've got to settle down and manage the game by managing the puck appropriately."

Who's Hot: While Edmonton's young talent may be stealing national headlines, veteran winger Ryan Smyth has been a huge reason for the team's promising start to the season. The 35-year-old has compiled seven points in his last seven games, and notched a goal and two assists in Friday night's win in Denver. … Alexander Steen, who scored twice in St. Louis' 3-0 win at Vancouver on Wednesday, has mustered four points in his last three games. Steen leads the Blues with six goals and nine points in 10 games this season.

Injury Report: David Perron (post-concussion syndrome), B.J. Crombeen (scapula), Andy McDonald (concussion) and Kent Huskins (ankle) are listed on Injured Reserve and will not play for St. Louis. … Taylor Fedun (broken femur) and Darcy Hordichuk (knee) are listed on IR for the Oilers. Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Ryan Whitney (knee) are also expected to miss Sunday's game.

Stat Pack: Dubnyk, who pushed aside 40 of 41 shots in Edmonton's win on Friday, improved to 4-0-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .960 save percentage over the last two seasons in road games where his opponent totaled 40-plus shots on goal.

Puck Drop: Nugent-Hopkins has spent much of his time this season on a line with Edmonton's other recent first-round picks, Taylor Hall (1st overall in 2010) and Jordan Eberle (22nd in 2008). Nugent-Hopkins attributes the quick translation of his game early on this season to their guidance.

"Taylor and Jordan have been amazing mentors for me," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I'm thrilled that I get to keep playing with those guys."

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