ST. LOUIS, MO - The Oilers will look to build off Thursday's strong performance against Nashville as they close out their three-game Central Division road trip tonight against the St. Louis Blues.
Edmonton peppered the Predators with 37 shots last night in Music City (including nine straight to start the game), but unfortunately Pekka Rinne turned aside all of them, the pinnacle being a Jordan Eberle penalty shot in overtime.
A few minutes after Rinne denied Eberle, Filip Forsberg tallied his 10th goal of the season with just 65 seconds left in sudden death to give the Predators the 1-0 win. Other than converting on a few scoring chances, the Oilers hope to bring the same consistent effort into tonight's battle with the Blues.
"It was a 60-minute effort where we should have had two points, and usually on a lot of nights that would have been," Taylor Hall said during the team's pre-game media availability. "We need that big effort tonight. A game like last night is going to go a long way tonight."
"We had a great start and were able to sustain it for a whole game, which is something we've been talking about," Andrew Ference added. "We set the bar for ourselves as a group of where we can play. That's the precedent we've set and now you have to live up to it, because it's not asking what you're not capable of."
The Blues have been one of the Western Conference's top teams so far this season with a 14-6-2 record, and also feature three of the NHL's top 30 scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko (23 points), Jaden Schwartz (21) and Jori Lehtera (20).
"We've faced some hot goal scorers and good offensive talent and keyed in on them very well in some of the games," Ference said, referring to Oilers wins over Ovechkin and the Capitals, as well as Stamkos and the Lightning. "We need to have our radar on when those dangerous guys are on the ice."
It's always a challenge for teams to stay energized for 60 minutes when playing the second game of a back-to-back, but Hall said the key for the Oilers tonight will be to maintain quick shifts and dictate their game plan to the best of their ability.
"It's definitely a factor, but we're going to do our best to keep our shifts short and manage the game as best we can," said Hall, who led all Edmonton forwards in ice time vs. Nashville at 23:29. "Our gamesmanship has to be better. We have to be a team that manages the situation. It is a back-to-back, so we have to play simple and play hard."
Matt Hendricks, who took a Shea Weber slap-shot off the knee-cap on his first shift in Nashville, is not expected to play tonight, so look for Jesse Joensuu to return to the Oilers lineup, while Luke Gazdic will play his third consecutive game. Fortunately, Hendricks' post-game X-rays came back negative so consider the gritty winger day-to-day right now.
Between the pipes, Ben Scrivens is expected to get the start for the Oilers. Although Viktor Fasth performed well and stopped 24 of 25 shots Thursday in Nashville, goalies typically don't play back-to-back games on back-to-back nights. Scrivens made 31 saves against the Blues in St. Louis on March 13, 2014.
And on the back end, Justin Schultz is expected to return to the Oilers lineup after being a healthy scratch Thursday in Nashville. He will likely be paired with Andrew Ference, while Keith Aulie and Martin Marincin are projected to sit out.
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (6-14-3) at BLUES (14-6-2)
TV: SNW, FS-MW
Season series: This is the first of three games between the teams this season. The St. Louis Blues won all three games against the Edmonton Oilers by at least three goals in 2013-14, outscoring them 17-4. From Dec. 11, 2007, to Dec. 11, 2009, the Oilers won eight straight games against the Blues, but St. Louis has won 14 of 17 since, including eight victories of three or more goals.
Oilers team scope: This is the second half of back-to-back games against the top two teams in the Central Division. Edmonton has lost eight straight games (0-6-2) and despite outplaying the Nashville Predators on Thursday night remain without a victory since Nov. 9. The Oilers also have yet to defeat a team from the Western Conference (0-11-2). They have generated at least 32 shots on goal in five of the eight games during this skid, but have just 13 goals, including three in the past four games.
Blues team scope: St. Louis is 11-0-0 when it scores three goals, and 3-6-2 when the Blues score two or less. A lot of the scoring has been coming from the "STL line" of Jaden Schwartz, Jere Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko. The trio has combined for 27 goals and 64 points, but only three goals and eight points in the past five games. Four of those were on the road, and opposing coaches have started to match their best defensive players against what is technically St. Louis' "third" line. There was little offense to speak of against in losses to the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, but others have helped out and the Blues have nine goals in the past three games.