Blues-Oilers Preview

Three times already this season the Edmonton Oilers have won to

avoid a sixth straight loss.

Those victories, however, didn’t come against teams at the level

of the St. Louis Blues.

Western Conference-worst Edmonton tries to avoid a season-high

sixth consecutive defeat Saturday night against a Blues team that’s

dominated the series.

Hoping to take another step forward after showing some

improvement last season, the Oilers (11-23-3) instead have been

plagued by the league’s worst defense and are in danger of missing

the playoffs for an eighth straight season.

While there’s still more than a half a season remaining,

Edmonton already finds itself 20 points behind the final playoff

spot in the very competitive West.

Although the Oilers have allowed an NHL-worst 127 goals, it’s

the offense lately that’s been the bigger problem. They’ve scored

six goals during a five-game skid – the last four on the road – and

one-third of that production came in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to

Colorado.

“It’ll be nice to get home, get some rest and get fired up for

Saturday,” leading scorer Taylor Hall told the team’s official

website. “It wasn’t how we wanted this road trip to go by any

means. It’s nice to just go home, regroup a little bit and make

sure we finish off our last two games before the Christmas break

good.”

The Oilers snapped their first five-game skid Oct. 19 with a 3-1

win in Ottawa and did so again Nov. 5 with a 4-3 victory at

Florida. They followed that win with another five-game slide which

ended Nov. 16 against Calgary.

Each of those opponents would be left out of the playoffs if the

season ended today, but not St. Louis (23-7-4), which is

challenging for the Central Division lead.

A big reason for the Blues’ success is the career season Alex

Steen is putting together. He scored two more goals in a 5-1 win

over Montreal on Thursday, the same day he signed a three-year,

$17.4 million contract that will keep him with the team through

2016-17.

Steen is second in the league with a career high-tying 24

goals.

St. Louis avoided its first three-game skid and improved to

4-1-1 in its last six.

“We played a solid game throughout the whole 60 minutes,” Steen

said. ”We came out with a lot of jump. I felt like we dictated

from the early going.”

Jaroslav Halak was sharp with 25 saves after posting a 4.78

goals-against average in his previous three starts. He’s 7-1-1 with

a 1.76 GAA in 10 appearances against the Oilers.

On the opposite end is Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk, who is 0-7-0

with a 4.72 GAA lifetime against the Blues.

The Oilers snapped a five-game losing streak in this series with

a 3-0 victory March 26. St. Louis is 11-2-1 in the last 14

meetings, including a 5-1-1 mark at Rexall Place.

This will be the first game for Oilers forward David Perron

against his former team. Perron, who has a team-high 14 goals,

spent six seasons with the Blues before being traded to Edmonton in

July.