Oilers pick up playoff quest against Blues

NHL
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The Edmonton Oilers’ quest to return to postseason play will continue when they host the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.

The Oilers, who have reached the playoffs just once since 2006, are 5-1-1 in their last seven games to remain in the middle of the Western Conference race.

Their 58 points puts them in the upper tier of the Pacific Division, where just five points separate the top five teams entering Thursday.

Meanwhile, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues lead the Western Conference with 70 points. They earned a 5-4 shootout victory against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night to end their five-game road winless streak (0-4-1).

The Oilers are coming off of a 4-3 shootout loss to their arch-rival Flames at home Wednesday night.

“We got a point, there’s going to be some highs and lows, and we have to stay even-keeled throughout these (remaining) games here,” said Oilers winger Zack Kassian, who returned from his two-game NHL suspension for that game.

“We would’ve definitely liked that extra point there, but we got one and have some games in hand,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “That’s going to be the way we have to play from now on.”

While the Oilers felt good about their effort against the Flames, Blues coach Craig Berube was unhappy with the wide-open nature of their game at Calgary.

“It was kind of like a back-and-forth game with way too much open ice for their team,” Berube said. “Like giving up odd-man rushes and breakaways. That’s just not our game.

“Fortunately we got out of it and we did a good job in the third period, I thought, of tightening it up and playing our game. We just gotta be better there. We can’t be giving up the odd-man rushes like we did last night.”

Berube saw shortcomings at both ends of the ice.

“It’s not just defense,” Berube said. “It’s managing the puck and hanging onto the puck in the offensive zone. Making it difficult for the other team and getting the other team impatient, and we didn’t do that.”

The Blues have won the first two games against the Oilers this season, 5-2 in Edmonton on Nov. 6 and 2-1 in St. Louis on Dec. 18. In the latter game, Mikko Koskinen starred in goal for the Oilers while stopping 42 of 44 shots.

Koskinen could start against the Blues again. That would allow No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith, who is 5-0-1 in last six starts, to be fresh when the Oilers play Saturday night in Calgary in another “Battle of Alberta” showdown.

Blues goaltender Jake Allen won both games against the Oilers this season and he could start again ahead of All-Star Jordan Binnington, since the Blues play the next night in Winnipeg.

Allen is 7-5-1 in 13 career starts against the Oilers with a .910 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average.

The Blues placed forward Oskar Sundqvist on injured reserve with a lower-body injury earlier this week, but forward Sammy Blais (wrist surgery) came off IR to replace him.

The Oilers got defenseman Matt Benning back after his two-month absence due to a concussion.

–Field Level Media

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