Oilers-Blues Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues own the best home record in the NHL, and a stretch of 10 of 12 games at Scottrade Center could be just what they need to climb to the top of the Central Division.

The Blues look to win for the eighth time in their last nine home games Thursday night when they face an Edmonton Oilers club that's struggling on the road.

St. Louis (22-12-5) is 15-3-2 at home for a league-best 32 points. The team has won seven of the last eight there after beating Phoenix 4-1 on Tuesday, ending a three-game overall skid that included two losses at Detroit.

The victory over the Coyotes also started a 12-game stretch that includes 10 at home. That could provide a lift for the Blues, who are third in the Central - three points behind front-running Chicago and two back of the second-place Red Wings.

"It's January and this is the time when teams take it to another level," said right wing Chris Stewart, who scored his eighth goal of the season Tuesday.

The Blues seem to be in favorable position with a visit from the Oilers (16-20-3), one of the worst road teams in the league at 6-14-1. Edmonton has dropped eight of nine away from home, and fell to 1-4-0 on a season-high seven-game trip following Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Buffalo.

St. Louis has also won its last three home meetings with the Oilers, but fell 4-2 at Edmonton on Oct. 30.

That defeat was part of Jaroslav Halak's 1-6-0 start to the season, which included a 3.35 goals-against average.

Halak has since turned his season around, going 5-0-3 with a 1.82 GAA in his last eight starts.

"He's moving around the net well and he's anticipating well," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, 16-5-5 since replacing the fired Davis Payne on Nov. 6. "He's played well ever since I got here."

Halak only needed to make 12 saves in a 4-0 win over the Oilers on March 24, the last time these clubs met in St. Louis.

St. Louis will likely be without Alex Steen for a fourth straight game due to concussion-like symptoms. His 13 goals are tied with fellow center T.J. Oshie for the team lead.

The Oilers, who conclude their extended trip Saturday at Dallas, are also dealing with a key injury as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is expected to miss a second game with a left shoulder injury. The 18-year-old center is the league's rookie scoring leader with 13 goals and 35 points.

Jordan Eberle, 21, has three assists in his last two games to give him a team-high 42 points, one fewer than his total from his rookie season of 2010-11. The right wing's 16 goals are two shy of his mark from last season.

He beat Halak on Oct. 30 for his only goal in five career meetings with St. Louis.

Edmonton coach Tom Renney credits Hitchcock for the Blues' newfound success.

"They're going to press hard now," Renney said. "He's got them playing to their assets. They're a big, strong team and they play that way. They work hard both ways. They play 200-by-85 pretty darn good and that's no surprise if you know Hitch at all.

"We have to make sure that we measure up in every sense of the word and take our speed to them."

What to Read Next