ST. LOUIS, MO - The Oilers have a big challenge in front of them tonight as they face off against the second-best team in the NHL.
"They're deep right from position one, that being the goaltender, right out to the forward lines," said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan when assessing tonight's opponent. McLellan added that the Blues defence is also very dangerous.
"It's been well documented how active they are on the rush and how much they've scored. The forwards do a tremendous job coming back and supporting them defensively so they're a tough out.
"They're a test for every team that plays them in the League right now and another test for us."
On defence, the Blues have the League's leading scorer among blueliners in Alex Pietrangelo with seven goals and 19 points plus Joel Edmundson with six goals. The defence is also getting a boost tonight with Jay Bouwmeester making his season debut after being out due to injury.
"Anytime you miss any amount of time, it's no fun. It's a little different because it's like you're starting when everyone is going already but I'm looking forward to it," said Bouwmeester. "We've got off to a real good start and coming off a real good road trip and as a team we're playing well. You just want to come in and help contribute."
The Blues are a more offensive group this year than past years thanks in part to the addition of Brayden Schenn, who was acquired in a trade this past off-season. Schenn already has eight goals and 26 points (ranking fourth in the NHL) through 21 games.
"I think they're built a little bit different than they were when Hitch left," said McLellan, referencing the Schenn addition. "I still think they play in straight lines. They play an aggressive game. Their back end gets a little more production but they play St. Louis hockey. Nothing much has changed there."
Blues head coach Mike Yeo said he felt part of the reason for Schenn's performance has been him playing at centre.
"We knew that we wanted to try him in that position, that's where he felt comfortable but he didn't have a lot of experience with it," he began. "His instincts and his stick, he has the ability to create turnovers so he spends a lot of time with the puck."
MCDAVID GETTING HEALTHIER
Connor McDavid will play tonight after missing practice on Monday due to an illness that's been affecting him for awhile. Oilers head coach Todd McLellan touched on that this morning.
"Connor's been sick for a week to 10 days now. He hasn't practiced at all. He's getting better and will play tonight. If we need to give him some rest over the next few days, we'll give him some rest. He's been giving us everything he has energy wise. His minutes have come down because of it but he'll be fine."
McDavid added that having a day off on Sunday should also help the rest of the group with the flu bug going around the room a bit.
"A day off is nice for the group," he said. "They had a good day at practice yesterday -- I wasn't part of it -- so that was good."
The Oilers are projected to go with the same lineup as they had on Saturday in Dallas:
The Oilers and Blues meet for the second time this season and for the second time in less than a week, having played on November 16, at Edmonton.
In that first meeting, Brayden Schenn scored twice and the Oilers surrendered three unanswered goals in the final two frames as the Blues skated away with a 4-1 victory at Rogers Place.
Edmonton was outshot 39-30 in that game. Ryan Strome was the lone goal scorer for the Oilers.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are looking to get this road trip on track after losing game one to the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists in that game, while Drake Caggiula scored twice, including one shorthanded.
The Oilers power play has been red hot as of late, with five goals in their last three games.
Blues team scope:
After beating Edmonton 4-1, the Oilers went to Vancouver to hand the Canucks a 4-3 overtime loss. St. Louis has now won five of their last seven games.
The Blues boast some of the NHL's leading scorers. In fact, they have two of the top five in NHL scoring (as of Monday at 4:30 p.m. MST) with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn each logging 26 points so far.
The team will get a boost to the lineup with defenceman Jay Bouwmeester expected to return after missing the first 21 games of the season with a fractured ankle.
By the Numbers:
McDavid leads the Oil in scoring this season with 25 points (10-15-25) through 20 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is second on the team with 15 points, including eight goals.
The power-play scoring for the Oilers has been spread out with three players each having three man-advantage goals so far this season (McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Letestu).
OILERS: A. Sekera (knee) is on IR, A. Slepyshev (groin) is on IR
BLUES: R. Fabbri (knee) is on IR, Z. Sanford (shoulder) is on IR