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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers at Blues

The Oilers conclude their brief two-game trip against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues

by Ryan Frankson & Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers will conclude their two-game road trip Wednesday in a clash against the St. Louis Blues.

You can watch the game on Sportsnet or listen on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED.

Read the Preview then check back following Wednesday's pre-game avails for the Morning Skate Report.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game at STL 12.18.19

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Tuesday's Oilers practice in St. Louis, including a piece on Zack Kassian closing in on the 500th game of his career.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

MORNING SKATE REPORT

ST. LOUIS, MO - The Oilers credited a defence-first mentality for their slump-busting victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday, and they'll require plenty more where that came from when they face the defending Stanley Cup champions tonight in St. Louis.

After surrendering 19 goals during their four-game losing skid, the Oilers locked it down in a big way in Dallas, shutting the Stars out for more than 57 minutes until Tyler Seguin scored the home team's lone goal in an eventual 2-1 decision.

The champs have played like champs through their first 35 games of the season, winning 21 times and leading the Western Conference with 48 points. Edmonton isn't too far behind, though, accumulating 42 points through 36 games.

"We need to keep the mentality of defence first, and everything else comes after that," said Mikko Koskinen, who will start between the pipes again after turning aside 34 of 35 shots to beat the Stars on Monday.

"It's always fun to play against good teams. It's always a challenge and you need to be on top of your game if you want to win."

"When you play good teams like this, deep teams, it makes your group recognize if you're going to be successful you have to play well," echoed Head Coach Dave Tippett. "We had the right mindset in Dallas and we have to bring that mindset again tonight."

SWEDE SUCCESS

Speaking of players who made major contributions on the defensive end in Dallas, blueliners Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson will likely log big minutes once again versus a Blues squad that has 13 players with double-digit points.

Klefbom posted a team-high 30:32 TOI and blocked six shots on Monday, while Larsson was second among Oilers defencemen at 21:48 TOI and doled out six hits.

"The last few games they've really played strong," Tippett said of the shutdown pair. "Coming through a stretch where we'd given up a lot of goals, we need people who are hard defenders."

The defensive duo's solid play of late is especially encouraging for Larsson, who now has 13 games under his belt since returning to the lineup after recovering from a fractured right fibula sustained during the season opener against Vancouver.

"He's getting there," Tippett said. "You see him play the minutes he is now, how hard he is in the battles, how long he can stay in the battles, and his quickness to get to loose pucks. Those are all things that show he's getting his game - thinking and physically - back to where it should be."

Larsson says he now feels up to speed after rejoining the lineup in mid-November, and the familiarity he has with his fellow Swede has allowed them to get back in a groove.

"We're communicating a lot," he said. "We're talking on and off the ice. It just seems to work since day one. We've had our ups and downs, but right now we're feeling pretty good about our game."

KASSIAN'S MILESTONE

Larsson played his 500th game in the NHL earlier this season, and tonight in St. Louis it'll be Zack Kassian's turn to hit the milestone.

EdmontonOilers.com checked in with the gritty winger following Tuesday's practice, but Tippett chimed in with some words of praise for the veteran following Wednesday's morning skate.

FEATURE: Kassian closing in on 500 games

"He's a real character, I like him," said the bench boss. "He brings a lot of energy to our group. He's a fun guy to be around and he's a good hockey player. He's underrated in the skill and skating department. He plays hard and has found a nice niche with Connor and Leon when he's there. It's great to see guys like that, who have had challenges along the way, hit the 500-game mark, and there's lots and lots of real good career ahead of him."

Kassian scored his 12th goal of the season against the Stars and needs just four more tallies to set a new career high.

PROJECTED LINEUP

The Oilers are expected to ice the same lineup from Monday's win in Dallas:

Nygard - McDavid - Kassian
Neal - Draisaitl - Gagner
Khaira - Nugent-Hopkins - Chiasson
Haas - Sheahan - Archibald

Nurse - Bear
Klefbom - Larsson
Russell - Jones

Koskinen
Smith

-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (19-13-4) vs. BLUES (21-8-6)

TV: 6:30 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the second of three clashes between the Oilers and Blues this season.

The two sides met in Edmonton previously, with the defending Cup winners exiting Oil Country with a 5-2 victory.

The clubs will reconvene for a third and final time in the new year when Edmonton hosts the Blues again on Jan. 31, 2020.

Oilers team scope:

The Oilers snapped a four-game winless skid when they squeaked out a tight 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday.

The Orange & Blue are 19-13-4 through the first 36 games of the '19-20 season, being outscored 109-106. The club has scored two or fewer goals in seven of their last 10 games, going 3-6-1 over that span.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl pace the Oilers and the League in scoring with 59 and 57 points, respectively. Between the pipes, Mikko Koskinen is 12-5-2 this year with a .917 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average.

Blues team scope:

Last season's NHL champions have felt no effects of a Stanley Cup hangover, owning a 21-8-6 record through their first 35 games of the season. 

The Blues most recently dropped the Colorado Avalanche by a 5-2 score in a game that saw former Oiler David Perron record a hat trick. The win extended St. Louis' winning streak to three games.

The Blues are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and own a plus-12 goal differential (107-95). The champs have also won their past three home games, outscoring their opposition 13-7.

Video: PRE-RAW | Zack Kassian 12.18.19

By the Numbers:

The Oilers have scored at least one man-advantage goal in eight straight games, going 10-for-30. ...  Edmonton's 31.5 percent power-play rating is the best percentage the club has seen in a season in franchise history. ... Edmonton is also 8-0-0 when they score two or more power-play goals in a game. ... Draisaitl has scored the second-most goals since '18-19 with 71, which is just one less than Alex Ovechkin.

Blues centre Ryan O'Reilly has won 4,846 faceoffs since the '15-16 season, which is the most in the NHL over that time and 648 more than Anze Kopitar, who is next closest with 4,198. ... Brayden Schenn is on an eight-game point streak against the Oilers, notching six goals and 10 assists in those games.

Injury Report:

OILERS - Matt Benning (head) is on IR.

BLUES - Ivan Barbashev (upper body) is day-to-day; Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) is on IR; Sammy Blais (wrist) is on IR; Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder) is on IR; Erik Foley (concussion) is on IR.

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

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