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Oilers continue long trip in St. Louis

by Deborah Francisco

OILERS (16-20-3) AT BLUES (22-12-5)

TV: SNET-Edmonton, FS-Midwest (HD)

Last 10: Edmonton 2-8-0, St. Louis 5-3-2

Season Series: This is the second of four games to be played between the Oilers and the Blues this season. The Oilers won the first game 4-2 thanks to a pair of goals from Ryan Smyth. Last season St. Louis won three games of the four-game series.

Big Story: The struggling Oilers are playing their third game in four nights as they and the sixth of their seven-game road trip. They've won just one of the first five.

Team Scope:

Edmonton: The Oilers are looking to turn things around after dropping nine games in the month of December. After defeating the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks 4-3 in Chicago on Monday they were edged 4-3 by the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday. The game was tied 2-2 after the second period but the Oilers couldn't contain the Sabres in the third.

"We gave Buffalo everything they could handle. It was a winnable game for us," coach Tom Renney said. "We were very passionate, and we really tried to play within our structure. We didn't quit, and that's as important as anything."

Blues: The Blues continue to dominate under the leadership of Ken Hitchcock. With eight wins in the month of December they are fifth in the Western Conference with 49 points. After dropping three games at the end of December the Blues started the new year right with a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

"It's January and this is the time when teams take it to another level," forward Chris Stewart said. "We did just that."

Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves in the victory and is 5-0-3 in his last eight starts with a 1.45 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. Halak was happy to end the Blues' three-game skid in which they were outscored 8-3.

"After losing three straight, we had to come up big," Halak said.

Who's Hot: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner are playing together on the top line for the Oilers and have a combined nine points in two games … T.J. Oshie is tied for the team's lead in goals with Alexander Steen (13), but Oshie has two tallies in his last three games.

Injury Report: The Oilers' Tom Gilbert (knee) and Ryan Whitney (ankle) are day to day, No. 1 draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) and Alex Plante (concussion) are out indefinitely and Cam Barker (ankle) is out for two months … Ian Cole served his first of a three game suspension on Tuesday, Alex Steen is doubtful with a concussion while Andy McDonald (concussion), Kent Huskins (ankle), Kris Russell (groin), and Ryan Reaves (hip) are on IR for the Blues.

Stat Pack: Edmonton is just 6-3-3 when leading after the first period; their .500 winning percentage is tied with Carolina for the worst in the NHL. … The Blues are 8-0-3 in games in which Oshie scores. … No team makes life easier for its goaltenders than the Blues, who are limiting opponents to a League-low 26.7 shots against per game.

Puck Drop - "We're starting to play with a lot more confidence," Stewart said. "It's beginning to show. We just have to keep working and doing the right things."

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