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Injury-depleted Oilers head to St. Louis

by Sergei J. Feldman
OILERS (17-24-4) at BLUES (27-12-6)


Last 10: Edmonton 2-7-1; St. Louis 6-2-2.

Season Series: This will be the third of four meetings between the two Western Conference combatants. Edmonton prevailed, 4-2, in the first go-around, but St. Louis responded with a recent 4-3 win to split the series.

Big Story: When the clubs collide, it will be a tale of two teams, as the Oilers are riding a lengthy losing streak, while the Blues continue their climb up the standings in a tight Western Conference. Something will have to give when the Oilers visit the Blues.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- The New Year hasn't greeted the Oilers with open arms just yet, as the club has just two victories to speak of all month (8 games). Both, interestingly enough, came against quality opponents, as the Oilers prevailed over Chicago on the road and Los Angeles at home. Unfortunately, the Oilers can't follow up a win with another win, a trend that's followed the club since consecutive wins over Nashville and Minnesota in late November. More recently, the club is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game in which the Oilers saw a 2-0 lead slip away. In addition to losing the game, the team lost its franchise player, Taylor Hall, during warm-ups, when he inadvertently took a skate to the forehead, which required 30 stitches.

"This is one of those fluky things," coach Tom Renney said. "It just happens. Not much we can do about it."

Blues -- Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues have essentially done nothing but win of late, as the club has skated away with two points in six of their past seven games. They earned a point in defeat in their other outing. Now, in the midst of a stretch of six of seven games at home, the Blues have a golden opportunity to gain some ground in a competitive Central Division. The Blues and Chicago Blackhawks each have 60 points, one behind division-leading Detroit Red Wings. Most recently, the Blues won a tight, 1-0, contest against the Dallas Stars, a game in which goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped all 22 shots en route to his third shutout of the season.

"Guys are scoring big goals for me," Halak said. "It's all timing. Sometimes I need to take the key saves for them to keep the score tied and sometimes they come up big for me. It's a combination right now."

Who's Hot: Ales Hemsky has led the charge for the Oilers, as he has compiled points in three of his past four games. Meanwhile, Blues captain David Backes has four points in his past five games, including two goals.

Injury Report: Taylor Hall, Eric Belanger and Ryan Whitney are day-to-day for the Oilers, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are slated to return near the end of January. For the Blues, Alexander Steen, Kris Russell and Andy McDonald are all day-to-day.

Stat Pack: The Blues are second in the NHL in goals against per game, while the Oilers own the League's second highest power play percentage.

Puck Drop: "I wasn't really expecting it because I haven't been approached like that before. It's always been in the offseason. I was happy that they wanted me to stay. Whenever you get that, you know that they're impressed with you and your work ethic. I was happy that they did and we came to an agreement that we both felt was a good deal." -- Blues goalie Brian Elliott on his new two-year deal
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