That will be the style of play Oilers defenceman Mark Fayne says will be required when his team faces off against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
“They’re a playoff-ready team,” he said. “They’re a big strong team, they defend really well so that’s going to be our main objective tonight is just going to try and get as many pucks to the net and play tough around our net as well. They’ve got some big bodies and like to jam things in so hopefully [we’ll] keep them out of there.”
The Blues have defeated the Oilers twice this season, and Edmonton is looking to snap an eight-game winless streak against the Central Division squad, having last defeated them on March 26, 2013.
Blues netminder Jake Allen will be starting for St. Louis despite being pulled from the game against the Calgary Flames in a 7-4 upset on Monday. Former Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson made his Blues debut two nights ago in relief.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said his team should be well-prepared for the Blues, having just faced a similar team in the Predators on Monday. The coach compared St. Louis’ defencemen to Nashville’s, and their forwards to some familiar Pacific Division foes.
“We just played a team that can hurt you from the backend and played a lot from there,” he said. “As far as up front, I see them being a lot like Anaheim, a lot like Los Angeles, those [types of] teams that can hold onto pucks, use their big size, their strength and get to the blue paint. It’ll be a test for us as it was earlier in the year. I’d like to think that we’ve improved, we’ve lost some players to injury that would be nice to see in this type of environment.”
Although Edmonton fell to Nashville in a 3-2 decision, Fayne said he felt that his teammates were able to pull together, despite missing many blueliners due to injuries and a suspension, and played better than they had in their last two home games.
“It’s always tough when you’ve got guys floating in and out of the lineup but [although] we’ve made a few mistakes, we’ve had a couple lapses, I think overall we’ve played pretty well.”
PAKARINEN PREPARES TO DELIVER
Oilers forward Iiro Pakarinen agreed with his teammate.
“The Arizona game was kind of a little disaster and an off game for us,” he said of Saturday’s shutout loss. “I think that last game — of course you can’t be happy if you lose — but I think that was a much better game from us.”
As the Oilers lineup continues to rotate, and the coaches look for new ways for players to capitalize when placed in new scenarios on the ice, Pakarinen has been focused on adjusting to highly-skilled linemates Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl.
“I think there was one very good scoring chance in that first period last game where Hallsy passed to me and I wasn’t ready,” he said. “The puck went in my five-hole and another time I got the puck and scored. I think I have to be ready all the time because the puck can come to me at any time.”
Pakarinen capitalized on an opportunity in the Oilers-Predators game on Monday night, scoring 31 seconds into the middle frame to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead.
“I think I’m feeling better and better all the time,” said Pakarinen, who now has five goals in 55 games. “As the time goes on [with] those very good players — Hallsy and Drat — [I] just have to score some goals, that’s the thing if I am on that line, so that’s my work now.”
As the Oilers continue to adjust the lineup due to injuries and other shuffling, they'll regain a defenceman tonight as Darnell Nurse returns to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension.
“We were playing every other day so it went by pretty fast,” he said of his time out of the lineup.
Nurse was suspended due to an altercation he had with Sharks defenceman Roman Polak during a home game against San Jose on March 8. McLellan said he feels the blueliner has reflected and learned from his timeout.
“I think he's learned a lesson and understands, perhaps, the rules a little bit better, knowing that there’s a time to really get involved for teammates and that there’s probably a better way of doing it than he did,” said McLellan.
“He knows that, he’s a really bright young man. When the suspension came out I spoke [to him] on the want and the need to take care of teammates, but also how it has to be done the right way. He’s such a good player that we can’t afford to have him suspended for long-term periods throughout his career. We’ve got to keep him playing and keep him developing.”
The blueliner said he still believes in ensuring the team has a strong presence on the ice.
“It’s in the past and I’m moving on, it’s over at this point,” he said. “You can’t regret everything that you do out there, obviously [you need to] be smart with your actions. I think I could [have] definitely been smart enough in that situation, but it’s over, it’s time to play again and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot will start tonight while, as noted, Nurse returns from serving his three-game suspension.
Although defenceman Adam Pardy skated during practice yesterday, he continues to nurse an injured hand and will remain a week-to-week monitor.
-- Meg Tilley, edmontonoilers.com
BLUES (41-21-9) at OILERS (27-38-7)
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET; FS-MW, SNOL, NHL.TV
Season series: The St. Louis Blues have defeated the Edmonton Oilers twice this season, 3-1 in their season opener Oct. 8 in St. Louis and 4-2 on Oct. 15 in Edmonton. Vladimir Tarasenko has two goals for St. Louis; Troy Brouwer has a goal and two assists; Paul Stastny, Jori Lehtera and Alexander Steen each have a goal and an assist; and Jaden Schwartz has two assists. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Lauri Korpikoski have scored for the Oilers.
Blues team scope: Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson is questionable after missing practice Tuesday. Coach Ken Hitchcock said Gunnarsson, who blocked two shots in the Blues' 7-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday that ended a six-game winning streak, is day-to-day. If Gunnarsson can't play, Robert Bortuzzo would; he's been a healthy scratch in seven straight games. St. Louis is seeking a ninth straight win against Edmonton; the Blues are 13-1-0 in the past 14 against the Oilers. The Blues last lost to the Oilers on March 26, 2013. "If we're not prepared (against Edmonton), it's going to be even worse," said goalie Jake Allen, who will start after being pulled Monday after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Stastny has seven points (three goals, four assists) during a four-game point streak after scoring two goals Monday.
Oilers team scope: Defenseman Darnell Nurse is eligible to return after serving a three-game suspension for being the aggressor in a fight against the San Jose Sharks; he practiced Tuesday. "You never want to be in that position, but at the same time, you want to use your time wisely," Nurse told the Oilers website. "I learned from it obviously, learned why you have to miss those games." Defenseman Adam Pardy, who coach Todd McLellan said has a hand injury from blocking a shot, skated Tuesday but is considered week-to-week. "The minute he's good to play, we're going to put [Pardy] in because we'd like to find out more about him," McLellan said. Defenseman Andrej Sekera did not skate Tuesday but McLellan said it was a maintenance day. Benoit Pouliot, Brandon Davidson, Eric Gryba and Oscar Klefbom did not skate Tuesday. Edmonton has lost the first two games of a five-game homestand and three in a row at Rexall Place.