Oilers-Blues Preview

It took a game against the NHL’s worst team last week for the
St. Louis Blues to avoid their longest home losing streak in six
seasons.

Maybe a visit by the Edmonton Oilers can help the Blues protect
their home ice.

Coming off its first home shutout loss in two seasons, St. Louis
goes for a sixth straight victory with the Oilers in town on Friday
night when these clubs open their season series.

St. Louis (10-7-2) held a 14-4 scoring edge while winning its
first three home games, but it followed with an 0-4-1 skid against
road teams that ended with Saturday’s 2-1 victory over
Columbus.

The well-rested Blues couldn’t build on that on Thursday, losing
3-0 to Chicago, which ran its NHL-record season-opening point
streak to 20.

It was the first time St. Louis didn’t score at home since a 6-0
loss to Calgary on March 1, 2011. The Blues have found the back of
the net three times while losing three of four, so they can’t
afford to give up another early goal after falling behind just 12
seconds into Thursday’s game.

“We’ve got to improve that,” captain David Backes told the
Blues’ official website. “That’s on our shoulders.”

The Blues, who open a five-game trip Sunday against Dallas, also
need to start capitalizing on the power play. They’ve failed in all
13 chances over the last five games after converting 12 of 32 times
in the previous eight contests.

Alex Steen, tied for second on the club with seven power-play
points, is day-to-day after missing Thursday’s game with an
upper-body injury, but Andy McDonald won’t be able to help after
being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Both players
were hurt in Tuesday’s practice.

The Blues, though, are 9-1-1 in their last 11 against Edmonton
(8-7-4) after winning three of four last season.

The Oilers’ last victory in St. Louis was 5-3 on Dec. 11,
2009.

Edmonton, though, arrives on the heels of Thursday’s 5-1 victory
over Dallas that helped the club improve to 1-1-0 on a
franchise-record nine-game trip.

“It’s a good feeling here tonight, and we just gotta keep those
same habits and keep it rolling,” said Sam Gagner, who scored 1:13
into the game to increase his team-high point total to 19.

Edmonton won a season-best two straight from Jan. 28-30.

The Oilers, though, could equal that with another solid effort
in net from Devan Dubnyk, who made 33 saves on Thursday in his
first action in a week after Nikolai Khabibulin (groin) was placed
on injured reserve on Wednesday.

Dubnyk, though, has a 4.83 goals-against average while losing
all six starts versus St. Louis.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Brian Elliott, who hasn’t played
since losing his fifth consecutive start on Feb. 11, would start
either Friday or Sunday. If it’s Friday, it will be Elliott’s first
game against Edmonton in two seasons.

Jaroslav Halak was in net for each meeting in 2011-12. He turned
aside 66 of 71 shots to help St. Louis win the last three.

Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, who had an assist Thursday after serving
a two-game suspension for kneeing Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck last
week, tied Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a team-best three points
against the Blues in 2011-12.

Backes and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo each had five points to
pace St. Louis.