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Oilers-Blues Preview @NHL
Oilers-Blues Preview

GAME: Edmonton Oilers (7-6-1) at St. Louis Blues (2-7-3).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

In the new-look NHL, the St. Louis Blues couldn't afford to keep star defenseman Chris Pronger. Given their recent play, they may be regretting that decision.

Pronger makes his return Friday night with the Edmonton Oilers when they meet the struggling Blues at Savvis Center.

St. Louis has dropped six in a row after a 6-5 overtime loss Wednesday to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues have not lost seven straight since Feb. 12-25, 1989.

St. Louis, though, is 7-0-3-1 in its last 11 home games against the Oilers since a 3-2 loss Feb. 13, 1999.

For nine seasons, Pronger was one of the anchors on defense for the Blues with the now-retired Al MacInnis. In August, the Blues sent the former MVP, four-time All-Star and captain to Edmonton for defenseman Eric Brewer and two prospects.

"Let's face it, who's a better defenseman in this game?" Blues general manager Larry Pleau said of Pronger. "He logged a lot of ice time, played hurt. I don't think we could have asked any more, and he's still got a lot of hockey in him."

The Blues will welcome back left wing Dallas Drake, who completed a two-game league suspension for an illegal check Oct. 28 against Corey Perry of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Edmonton is coming off its most impressive win of the season. Pronger had two assists and Raffi Torres scored the game-winner 1:51 into overtime as the Oilers snapped the Detroit Red Wings' nine-game winning streak with a 4-3 win.

"It's huge for us. We knew these guys were experienced," Edmonton's Ryan Smyth said. "And with the record they've got, it is something we want to build on."

Edmonton has won four in a row after a seven-game losing streak to move back over .500. The Oilers have outscored the opposition 19-8 during the winning streak.

Torres has five goals and an assist during a five-game points streak after being held off the scoresheet in six straight.

Pronger has six assists during a four-game points streak. He had no points in his previous seven games.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 3): Oilers - 15 points, 2nd place (tied), 5 PB, Northwest Division. Blues - 7 points, 5th place, 18 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Torres, 9 goals; Ales Hemsky, 11 assists and 14 points; Ethan Moreau, 27 PIM. Blues - Jamal Mayers, 6 goals; Petr Cajanek, 11 assists and 13 points; Aaron Downey, 25 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 3): Oilers - Power play: 17.7 percent (16 for 90), 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.1 percent (72 for 91), 23rd. Blues - Power play: 17.9 percent (14 for 78), 16th. Penalty killing: 79.7 percent (67 for 84), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Jussi Markkanen (6-5-1, 0 SO, 2.73 GAA); Ty Conklin (1-1-0, 0, 4.39). Blues - Patrick Lalime (2-5-3, 0, 3.85); Reinhard Divis (0-2-0, 0, 4.90).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Blues, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 30, 2004; Blues, 1-0. At St. Louis, Weight scored his first goal in 18 games and Chris Osgood posted his 41st career shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 3-4-0 on the road; Blues - 2-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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