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Oilers attempt to bounce back, solve Blues

by Matthew Mankiewich /

BLUES (16-11-2) at OILERS (11-11-7)

TV: CBC, RDS2, FS-Midwest

Last 10: St. Louis 6-4-0; Edmonton 3-4-3

Season series: Second of three meetings, and the only trip to Rexall Place this season for St. Louis. The Blues won the last meeting on Mar. 1, 4-2 at Scottrade Center, for their fourth straight win over Edmonton. They are 10-1-1 in their last 12 games versus the Oilers.

Big story: While the Blues' steady play has kept them in the top eight of the Western Conference, the Oilers needed a 3-0-2 run to even get a whiff of a playoff spot. They're sitting three points behind eighth-place San Jose, to whom they blew a two-goal third-period lead and ended up with a 4-3 shootout loss on Wednesday. Now they try to close in playing a team against which they have had a dubious history of late.

Team Scope:

Blues: Jake Allen's five-game winning streak ended Tuesday as Cory Schneider outdueled the rookie goalie in a 3-2 loss to the Canucks, keeping the Blues from overcoming a 3-0 deficit. It allows coach Ken Hitchcock to let Allen take a breather and give Jaroslav Halak a chance to pad his already lofty numbers against the Oilers. Over the four-game streak, he has a 1.75 goals-against average. For Halak, it's also a chance to try and re-establish himself as the No. 1 goalie in only his third start this month. A groin injury in early February paved the way for Allen to take the top spot with an 8-2 record.

"It's not always easy when a goalie doesn't play," Halak acknowledged in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I don't think I played badly in Anaheim or anything, but you know, it's the way it is. Obviously, anybody would love to play but only one goalie can."

Oilers: The Oilers have a goalie issue themselves. Devan Dubnyk has started 11 games in a row and may have shown some signs of burnout when he allowed a third-period equalizer in the Oilers' 4-3 shootout loss to the Sharks in San Jose. Nikolai Khabibulin has been looking for ice time after recovering from a groin injury sustained in late February, and has a 21-16-4 lifetime record versus the Blues. By contrast, Dubnyk is 0-7-0 against them. Still, coach Ralph Krueger traditionally plays close to the vest, not announcing his starter ahead of time.

"We re-evaluate the lineup after every game. We'll take a look at it. Nikolai is close to 100 percent," Krueger told the Edmonton Journal.

Who's hot: Blues forward Chris Stewart was held off the board Tuesday, but has five goals and two assists in his previous three games, and points in seven of 10, which helped him earn the NHL's First Star last week. … Oilers forward Sam Gagner has five goals and two assists of his own in a five-game point streak.

Injury report: Blues forward T.J. Oshie (ribs) should be back in the lineup after missing three games. … The Oilers will not be welcoming Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back in the lineup Saturday as originally expected because his flu symptoms persist. Forward Eric Belanger (groin) should be ready to go, however, after missing two weeks. Ales Hemsky and Nick Schultz did not skate Friday, but will play.

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