EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers host the St. Louis Blues tonight for their final meeting of the season. The Blues have won four straight at Rexall Place.
“We just want to play a good, fast game and play a simple game,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said of the matchup. “We’re facing a team that’s a good hockey team and we’re going to have to be on the right side of the puck all night and when we get opportunities we are going to have to capitalize.”
The last time these two teams met, Benoit Pouliot scored both Oilers goals in a 4-2 loss to the Blues on January 13.
“They have some really skilled forwards too, they’re a heavy team. We have to be ready from the start. We’ve got to keep up with those guys. They’re very good and very offensive on defence too so we’ve got to be ready. I think the key tonight is going to be the start. We’ve got to be on our toes the first five minutes and hopefully it works out that way.”
YAK IS BACK
The Oilers will get a boost to their offence as Nail Yakupov returns to the lineup. Yakupov had eight points in his last eight games before suffering a groin injury. He missed the Oilers 2-1 win in Minnesota. Yakupov says the groin injury isn’t a reoccurring ailment and he is ready for action.
“It’s not new, it’s not old, it just happened. It’s kind of part of our sport, something could happen. But we fixed it, our trainers did a pretty good job so I’m ready to go,” Yakupov said.
Yakupov’s recent production has been encouraging for the Oilers, as the 2012 first-overall pick has found chemistry with his veteran centre, Derek Roy. Yakupov hopes he can continue his point-per-game pace throughout the remainder of the season, while helping the team improve their game as well.
“I’ll try to get my points every game,” Yakupov said. “I think if I get points then our team is going to be better for sure and as a team we’ll play better too. We’ve just got to finish hard and that’s it I think. We’ve got to play strong and finish hard. That’s what I have to do for the last (20 games). We’ve got to stick with it and don’t really think about your personality and personal points or something, then you won’t be that good. So you’ve just got to think about the team first.”
NO PETRY, OESTERLE IN
Oilers management made a decision to scratch pending free agent Jeff Petry for tonight’s game against the Blues. This allows Jordan Oesterle a chance to play in his second NHL game, after making his debut against Anaheim on Saturday.
“Jordan Oesterle is going in,” Nelson said. “I thought he played well his first game and we want to see him again.”
Oesterle is expected to be paired again with Captain Andrew Ference.
“He’s going to slide right back in to where he was,” Nelson said. “I thought the two of them worked well together and I think having a veteran presence next to Jordan helps.”
Oesterle, 22, was signed as a free agent after a career at Western Michigan University.
St. Louis is a big Western Conference team, so the Oilers will have their own big body in the lineup tonight. Luke Gazdic will play against the Blues, with Yakupov coming into the lineup and Matt Fraser coming out.
“(Gazdic) is a big presence out there for us and he’s been playing some good hockey for us,” Nelson said. “He’s been doing the things defensively that he has to do to stay in the lineup and I’m liking some of the things in the offensive zone where he’s ragging the puck a bit more. Having a bigger body against a bigger team makes sense.”
The Oilers hope to play a strong, simple game against the Blues and snap their streak of home losses against them.
“It’s going to be a really tough team to play against,” Yakupov said. “They have lots of big bodies. All we have to do is play strong and play simple. Just try and play our game and it will be easier with our fans at Rexall Place. We just got to stick with our game and play our game the way we’ve played the last two games and see what happens. I think it’s going to be a really good game tonight.”
QUICK NOTES: The Oilers are 1-8-1 against the Blues in their last 10 games. Ben Scrivens has three wins in his last five games. Jordan Eberle has 14 points (3-11-14) in his last 13 games. The Blues are in a stretch where they play 11 of their next 14 games on the road. Blues Goaltender Brian Elliot has won six of his last seven road starts.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
BLUES (39-18-4) at OILERS (18-34-10)
TV: CBC, FS-MW
Season series: David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko each had a goal and an assist and Jori Lehtera and Barret Jackman had two assists each in the St. Louis Blues' 4-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 13. Benoit Pouliot scored both Oilers goals.
Blues team scope: The Blues did not practice Friday after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in a shootout Thursday. They made one move in their lineup during the game, shifting fourth-line right wing Ryan Reaves to the third line; Reaves had an assist. "We needed way more weight against who they were defending against," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought Ryan really, really helped that line [with Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund, who scored]. He gave those guys some room and some space. They scored a big goal for us." After facing the Oilers on Saturday the Blues will conclude the Canada swing of their five-game trip Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks. Goalie Brian Elliott, who made 30 saves Thursday, will start against the Oilers. Defenseman Ian Cole is questionable because of an upper-body injury. The Blues have won four in a row at Rexall Place.
Oilers team scope: Right wing Nail Yakupov could return to the lineup Saturday after he missed a 2-1 victory at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday because of a groin injury. Coach Todd Nelson told reporters Friday that Yakupov looks good for Saturday. "He skated hard and looks like he's back to normal," he said. Nelson said he hasn't decided who will come out of the lineup so Yakupov could play. Yakupov has nine goals and 21 points in 61 games but has four goals and four assists in the past eight games. Right wing Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (shoulder) practiced but were wearing non-contact jerseys. Defenseman Jeff Petry, the subject of trade rumors ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline on at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, could be playing his final game as an Oiler. "Looks like he's handling it great," Nelson said. "He's come to the rink every day; you could see him on the ice today at practice having fun, working hard. He hasn't brought anything up with me but looks like he's living day-by-day." The Oilers have scored one goal or fewer in four of their past six home games.