ST. LOUIS, MO - A pair of forwards familiar with tonight's opponent and a masked man between the pipes will all be eager to perform when the Oilers conclude their three-game road trip against the St. Louis Blues.
Kyle Brodziak and Ty Rattie will draw back into the lineup on a trio together against a team they've both played for earlier in their careers, while Mikko Koskinen makes the start in net looking to bounce back after surrendering six goals on 34 shots during Sunday's defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Brodziak, who played three seasons for the Blues between 2015 and 2018, returns to the Oilers lineup for the first time since last Wednesday's home game against the New Jersey Devils.
"It's been a few games since we played, so early on we want to try to build some good shifts and hopefully build off that," he said of his impending return alongside Rattie. "It's about playing the game that we know we're capable of and making sure we're executing clean."
Brodziak has suited up for 64 of Edmonton's 72 games this season, contributing five goals and three assists in his second stint with the team after he started his career with the Oilers from 2005 to 2009. He also has a 52.2% success rate in the faceoff circle this season.
Rattie, who suited up for the first 40 games of his NHL career with St. Louis over the course of four seasons between 2013 and 2017, hasn't played since Edmonton's March 9 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's a big task at hand," he said of the Blues, who are currently third in the Central Division with 82 points. "They're a tough team and it's a tough building and they've been playing well, so I'm looking forward to it."
Rattie has scored four goals and seven assists in 45 games with the Oilers this season but has been held to just one helper in his last 12 appearances.
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he's looking for Brodziak and Rattie to add a spark to the forward contingent tonight in St. Louis.
"We feel like we need a different energy in there right now," he said. "Both guys are excited to get playing and hungry to play. I think both guys, being that this is their former team, will add something to us."
With the exception of the March 9 matchup vs. Toronto that he missed due to illness, Koskinen has started every game for the Oilers since Cam Talbot was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for Anthony Stolarz in mid-February.
Coach Hitchcock said he's confident in the big Finn's ability to bounce back after a tough performance in Vegas. In his last seven games after surrendering four or more goals in his previous appearance, Koskinen has allowed one goal one time, two goals four times and three goals one time.
"He's our guy," Hitchcock said. "He's the guy that we've hung our hat on. He's had a couple of really good outings and then he's had a tough outing. When he's had a couple of those tough outings, he's rebounded. When we made the decision that he's our guy, we're going to stick with him. This is another chance for him to grow and us to grow with him."
Koskinen's .909 save % this season ties him with Sergei Bobrovsky, Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby and Anders Nilsson on the NHL leaderboard.
Based on the team's morning skate at Enterprise Center, the Oilers are projected to ice this lineup tonight vs. St. Louis:
TV: 6:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet One, East, Pacific and Ontario
Tonight's game is the third and final meeting this season between the Oilers and Blues. Edmonton won 3-2 in a shootout back on December 5 in St. Louis while the Blues prevailed 4-1 at Rogers Place on December 18.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers dropped their last game to the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 6-3 but can win two out of three on their three-game trip with a victory tonight. Overall, the Oilers are 8-4-2 in their last 14 games which is a 105-point pace over an entire season.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, they're still seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand and 10 to play.
Leon Draisaitl has 43 goals now, on pace for 49 on the season. He would be the first Oilers skater to net 50 in a full season with the club since Wayne Gretzky had 62 and Jari Kurri had 54.
Blues team scope:
The Blues were last in the entire NHL at the start of January but have gone on an incredible run of 22-9-4 in the 35 games since the ball dropped on 2019 including 11 straight wins from January 23 through February 19.
A big reason for the team's success has been the other worldly play of rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington who has 17 wins in 24 appearances with a 1.77 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
With 69 points, Ryan O'Reilly leads the way for the Blues this season. In the month of March, Robert Thomas has seven points in nine games (two goals) to pace the Blues. Former Oiler Patrick Maroon is also having his best month of the year with three goals and six points in nine games. Maroon had only four goals and 14 points in the previous 55 games.
By the Numbers:
With the exception of Vegas, who is 9-1 in their last 10, no other team in the Western Conference has more wins than the Oilers do in their last 10 (Oilers are 6-4-0).
Two Oilers defencemen that have had outstanding months are Matt Benning and Kris Russell. Benning has a goal in each of his last three games and in eight games in March he has four points total with a +4 rating. Benning also leads the Oilers overall in plus/minus at +14. Russell has five points in eight games (one goal) ranking behind only McDavid (18 points in 8 games) and Draisaitl (13 points in 8 games).
OILERS -Jesse Puljujarvi (hip) is out for the season
BLUES - Erik Foley (concussion) is out; Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) is out; Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body) is day-to-day; Joel Edmundson (lower body) is day-to-day; Sammy Blais (undisclosed) is day-to-day