St. Louis Blues Open Second Half of Season Against Slumping Edmonton Oilers

Michael WagenknechtContributor IFebruary 4, 2011

EDMONTON, CANADA - DECEMBER 21:  Andy McDonald #10 of the St. Louis Blues plays the puck across the blueline during their NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers on December 21, 2009 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

The St. Louis Blues look to avoid their third five-game losing streak of the season when they host the Edmonton Oilers.  The game also marks the return of Andy McDonald, who has been out 24 games with a concussion suffered against the Oilers on December 4.

Both teams come into tonight on losing streaks, the Oilers on a two game slide and the Blues a four game streak.  Surprisingly, though, the Blues are still in the playoff hunt, as they sit only seven points back of eighth place Chicago.

Ty Conklin will get the start in goal as starter Jaroslav Halak is out with an upper body injury.  Ben Bishop has been called up from Peoria to back up Conklin.  Conklin is 3-2 in his career against Edmonton but has not won a game since December 28.

The Blues are starting to get their injured forwards back and tonight is Andy McDonald’s night to come back.  The other forward to return recently was TJ Oshie.  Oshie has only scored once since his return and the Blues are counting on a bit more from both Oshie and McDonald to get them back in the playoffs.

Alex Steen has been held pointless in the last two games after a seven game point streak.  Teams have been keying on Steen, as he is one of the Blues' only offensive threats at the moment.  With McDonald coming back, some of the pressure should come off of Steen and allow him to go back to playing his game.

Nikolai Khabibulin has had a solid career against the Blues, going 20-14-2, but he has struggled as of late.  Khabibulin has lost 12 straight games, all in regulation, but has given up only three goals per game in those losses.

With the leading point getter on the team only having 32 points, it's not difficult to see why the Oilers are in the cellar.  But this team is definitely set on the road to the future with stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi in the lineup.

Hall is tied with Dustin Penner for the team lead with 16 goals and, if not for injury, Eberle would be right along side those two as well.

If Blues fans think their team is in a slide, they need only to look to the Great White North to feel a bit better.  The Oilers have won only three games in the month of January and since beating the Blues on December 4, have five total victories.

The Blues NEED to win this game, with it being on home ice and with a back up goalie in, in order to get the season restarted.  If not, they will match the five game losing streak they have visited twice already this season.

Edmonton is always a tough opponent and will look to push the tempo on the Blues defensemen and use their youth to play a full 60 minute game, something the Blues haven't done in a long time.

Game time is 7:00 Central Time.