Blues start tough three-game Canadian road trip against resurgent Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues made coaching changes roughly 12 hours apart last month.
Only one team has responded well to a new voice.
The Oilers go for their seventh straight home win when they meet the Blues on Tuesday night.
Edmonton dismissed Todd McLellan on Nov. 20, less than a day after St. Louis did likewise with Mike Yeo. With Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, the Oilers have gone 9-3-2 and are unbeaten at Rogers Place.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the that home success is in net. Mikko Koskinen, who started the season backing up Cam Talbot, is 7-0-0 with three shutouts and has turned away 223 of 230 shots for a .970 save percentage at home.
But the 30-year-old Finn lost for the third time in his last four road starts following a 4-2 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. The Edmonton matched a season high by allowing three power-play goals.
“It felt like we’ve been trending up in that direction for a while and we had a bit of a setback tonight, but we’ll get back on it,” center Kyle Brodziak said.
The Oilers are 10-4-1 in northern Alberta going into a five-game homestand that includes a tough matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the league’s Christmas break.
“Go home, get a little confidence and play a good game,” defenseman Matt Benning said Sunday about facing the Blues.
After St. Louis (12-15-4) was blanked for the third time in a four-game stretch last month, Craig Berube was tapped to replace Yeo, but the team continues to sputter. The Blues gave up four first-period goals in a 7-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
“We were terrible in the first period. Every player. Terrible. … Couldn’t make a play. Couldn’t check. No composure. No team play,” Berube said after the team dropped to 5-6-1 under his leadership.
The Blues are 13th in the Western Conference as they start a three-game Western Canadian trip prior to the league break. St. Louis has been outscored 16-9 in five road games under Berube, but he’s expecting more on both ends of the ice regardless of where the team is playing.
“Guys got to look in the mirror. It’s up to each individual to prepare himself to play the game the proper way. You’re in the NHL. That’s your job,” he said.
Tuesday’s contest also marks the return of Blues winger Pat Maroon to Edmonton, where he enjoyed his greatest success. In 2016-17, Maroon collected a career-high 27 goals, including five game-winners.
After posting career bests in assists (26) and points (43) with the Oilers and New Jersey Devils last season, Maroon joined his hometown team but he’s missed time with an upper-body injury and has just one goal and seven assists in 25 games.
Though he said after Sunday’s loss that there are no answers anymore for why the team is playing so poorly, Maroon added that the team is not giving up.
“We come in and put our pads on every night and we go out there and try to play our best every night,” he said.
The Oilers needed to a shootout to beat the Blues, 3-2, on Dec. 5. Edmonton is looking for its fourth win in five games on home ice versus St. Louis.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid‘s next assist will be the 200th of his career. A two-time scoring champion at just 21, McDavid has six goals and 10 helpers in a nine-game points streak.