The final road trip of the season continues tonight for the Edmonton Oilers with stop number two in St. Louis.
Despite dropping the opening game of the trip, the Oilers showed a lot of spark against the league's number-one overall team the Nashville Predators. The club even had a 3-2 lead in the third period before a pair of goals gave Nashville a come-from-behind victory.
"We wanted to put together a game plan as to how we were going to conduct ourselves for the last couple of weeks of the season. We wanted competitive efforts night-in and night-out," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who went on to praise captain Jason Smith who dropped the gloves twice in the setback.
"I thought we got that with the captain leading the way. And it's really important for us to have that level of commitment from our most experienced guy. He's a good role model for the younger guys as to how committed you have to be to have success."
Jussi Markkanen is expected to get the start tonight and will likely get into three or four of the remaining five games on this road trip, according to MacTavish.
"It's an important time for him. He's going to have to come in and play well here," he said. "I want to give him every other game -- at least. It's hard not to go with Roli now because of how well he's playing, but there's a bigger picture here. The organization has to make an assessment on Jussi based on getting some consistent starts."
St. Louis is another team playing out the string and they have had trouble finding wins of late. The Blues have only one regulation win in their last 13 games and are 3-6-3 in their last 12.
The Blues are also coming off back-to-back 4-1 losses at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Head coach Andy Murray was not happy with the team's effort in either game.
"It's tough to find a rational for it. There's so many things that we could look at," he said. "You can't just zero in on one. We need to get our feet moving. We need to get re-energized and play with more energy. We can be stronger on the puck; we don't look strong on the puck right now; we look weak on it. We looked like we're physically not strong enough tonight."
The Oilers and Blues have met three times previously this season with Edmonton winning once and St. Louis winning twice - including an OT victory on March 17.TONIGHT'S GAME ON PPV:
Tonight's game will be available on pay-per-view via Shaw Digital Cable, Star Choice and Bell Expressvu. If you don't have any of those three service providers you can still catch tonight's game at one of four participating Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy or Silver City theatres.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Steve Staios (knee) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (sports hernia) is out. Jan Hejda (shoulder) is out. Petr Nedved (knee) is out; St. Louis – Manny Legace (knee) is out. Martin Rucinsky (hip) is out. Dan Hinote (upper body) is out. Vladimir Orszagh (knee) is out. Jay McKee (lower body) is out. Bryce Salvador (fractured left clavicle) is out. Matt Walker (upper body) is questionable. Dallas Drake (upper body) is questionable.
OILERS TO WATCH: Tom Gilbert led all Oilers in icetime on Tuesday in Nashville logging a career-high 28:50. He also had two assists and was named the game's second star... Mathieu Roy also had a career high of 20:03 and blocked four shots in a strong performance versus the Predators.
BLUES TO WATCH: Former Oiler Doug Weight has picked up his play in the past month. He has 13 goals this season but seven have been scored after the February 27 trade deadline... Glen Metropolit, acquired at the deadline in the Tkachuk trade, has been plus or even in 12 of 14 games since joining St. Louis which is impressive considering the team's struggles in March... Curtis Sanford has been an Oiler-killer throughout his career with a record of 5-0-0 and a 2.31 goals-against average in six appearances versus Edmonton.
FAST FACTS: Head coach Andy Murray has been behind the bench for 48 games now this season and the Blues have a record of 24-16-8 during that time... St. Louis is 20-3-4 when leading after two periods... St. Louis is 23-17-7 all-time at home versus the Oilers and 43-41-11 overall... Dwayne Roloson is tied for second among NHL goaltenders this season with three assists, one behind Dallas netminder Marty Turco.