EDMONTON, AB - This could be Edmonton's toughest test to date. With a 3-1-0 record, the Oilers host a St. Louis Blues team that has yet to lose in regulation through four games (3-0-1). As a perennial playoff team, the Blues are a consistent force and a good measuring stick for an Oilers team that shook off a disappointing loss to Buffalo on Sunday with a 3-2 win over Carolina on Tuesday.
"On paper, this is definitely the toughest team we've faced so far, but in this league every game is hard," said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl. "I think they're a very heavy team, big team and I think we should match up pretty well with them."
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock always has his teams playing the right way. The Oilers want to get to that point.
"Hitch is demanding," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He puts certain expectations on players and individuals and expects them to perform that way. He's not reinventing the game. The players know they have to play the same way. They've lost some players just like any other team in the league has but they've also gained in signing individuals. (David) Perron is back and we all know how good he can be on certain nights.
"It's a team that went to the final four, it's a team that hasn't lost a game in regulation yet, it's a team that's mature and confident and it plays the same way. It's like photocopy machine. They just play the same way night after night and they believe that's the right way to play and they win most of the time doing it."
BIG AND HEAVY
The Blues have always been tagged as a big and heavy team. It's been a style of game they've thrived with for years. In the past, the Oilers didn't have that kind of size in their lineup. That has changed with the additions of players like Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian.
Draisaitl has been flanked by Maroon, giving Edmonton a third line with a lot of size. Kassian is another option that can move up and down the lineup at wing.
"I think those guys can skate, but they're big guys," said Draisaitl. "They're good at protecting the puck. We have a lot more offensive zone time than we had last year. They're big guys that can protect the puck and that's the way and that helps me as a player because I like to do the same thing."
Not only do those players have size, but they're making an impact on the scoreboard. Draisaitl, in particular, has had a good start to the season. With two goals and four assists, Draisaitl is tied for first on the team in scoring.
"I feel good. I feel strong," he said. "I had a really good summer and I came back with quite a bit of confidence and that always helps a player."
PLAYING WITH THE LEAD
Edmonton had a 3-0 lead over the Hurricanes on Tuesday but had to rely on Cam Talbot to keep their opponent from completing their comeback bid. The Canes scored twice and pressured late, but the goaltender kept them off the board for a third time.
The Oilers have shown they have the firepower to get a lead and outscore teams, but they need to find a way to close games out when they do have that lead.
"We've got to start holding leads now," said Maroon. "We've got to start not giving teams any momentum in the third period. When we have a 2-0 or 3-0 lead we need to learn to play with it and keep playing the right way that got us there. There's obviously some improvement. Our record is 3-1 but there's still a lot of work to do. Tonight is going to be a really big test for us."
Maroon says a reason the Oilers lose a lead is they get away from what they were doing to get the lead in the first place.
"We tend to back up," said Maroon. "We aren't doing what got us there, what got us the lead, which is getting pucks deep, grinding them down low, breaking out clean and playing good defensively. That leads into good offence."
Talbot will get the start tonight a day after his wife Kelly gave birth to twins. Jesse Puljujarvi is expected to be a healthy scratch for the second straight game based on the morning skate. With Mark Fayne injured, Eric Gryba slots back in with Darnell Nurse on the third pairing.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (3-1-0) vs. BLUES (3-0-1)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet Oilers
Season Series: Tomorrow's game against St. Louis marks the first of three meetings this season between the Blues and Oilers. The next time these teams will meet is on December 19th in St. Louis. ... The last time the Oilers and Blues met was on March 16th in Edmonton, where the Oilers defeated St. Louis by a score of 6-4. Mark Letestu posted three points (2G, 1A), while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins posted two goals and Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon each notched two assists.
Oilers team scope: Leon Draisaitl (2G, 4A) and Jordan Eberle (3G, 2A) have posted at least a point in each of the Oilers first four games this season. The last Oilers to start a season with a four-game point streak were Sam Gagner (10 games) and Taylor Hall (7 games) in 2012-13. Currently four other NHL players have points through the first four games this season (Brent Burns, Marian Hossa, Erik Karlsson, Brock Nelson and Alexander Steen). ... After four games, the Oilers lead the NHL in goals for (17) and rank second in the league in goals for per game (4.25), behind the New York Rangers who have averaged 4.67 goals per game. The Oilers also rank second in the league in goals 5-on-5 (10) and have also recorded three shorthanded goals. ... The Oilers also rank sixth in shots for, with 118 shots on net in four games and rank third in shooting percentage (14.4%) - trailing only Minnesota (15.4%) and Chicago (16.3%).
Blues team scope: Nail Yakupov will make his return to Edmonton for the first time as a member of the St. Louis Blues. Yakupov spent four seasons with the Oilers, appearing in 252 games and posting 111 points (50G, 61A) and 102 penalty minutes. In four games with the Blues, Yakupov has a goal and an assist. ... St. Louis has three other former Oilers in David Perron, Magnus Paajarvi and Kyle Brodziak. ... The Blues are coming off their first loss of the season -- 2-1 in overtime in Vancouver. Prior to that, the Blues won their first three games of the season with wins over Chicago, Minnesota and NY Rangers.