St. Louis Blues Try to Repeat Opening Night Success in Rematch with Edmonton Oilers


St. Louis Blues Game 4/82: Thursday, October 15, 8:00 PM at Edmonton Oilers

The St. Louis Blues head into Edmonton on Thursday for the third game of a six-game road trip. The Blues, who have been a force to be reckoned with in the regular season ever since Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach in 2011, are showing more of the same form during the early part of 2015-16, as they have a 2-1 record through the season’s first week.

On Thursday, they’ll take on the young Oilers for the second time this year, having already beaten them once by a score of 3-1 in last week’s regular season opener. While Edmonton is off to a rough 0-3 start, the Blues must take them seriously (as Hitchcock repeatedly emphasized last week), because the young cast that features potential future stars like Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Griffin Reinhart is bound to gel at any time under new head coach Todd McLellan.

For some deeper insight on the Oilers, we caught up with Sammi Silber, the editor over at our fellow FanSided affiliate Oil on Whytewhich provides extensive Oilers coverage. Here’s what Sammi had to say about the current state of the Oilers:

1) Is there a great level of disappointment over the Oilers’ 0-3 start, or is there a feeling of optimism that they’re playing competitively after such a tough season last year?

There’s some disappointment, but it’s mixed with optimism after last year.  We have a new front office staff, a new head coach and a ton of new faces.  We’ve been up against top teams, which isn’t helping our transition to McLellan’s style.  It’ll take time.  An 0-3 start is not what I imagined, but the team will win eventually, and when they do, it’ll be their start of an adjustment and a new era.

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2) Do you think the Oilers’ mix of established veterans and extremely young players will allow for good chemistry and enable the team to succeed this season?

The chemistry’s confusing.  These vets mixed in with kids is definitely not easy.  I mean, just look at how the Hall-McDavid-Slepyshev line has performed.  Hall’s been around for five years and McDavid’s just a kid.  I feel like as time moves on (it’s still very early in the season), the rookies and youngsters will learn from the vets and they will find common traits and uncommon characteristics within one another.

3) Though much of the publicity has gone to Connor McDavid thus far, a guy who looked like a real breakout performer, at least against the Blues, was another former first overall pick in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Does he look like a player who’s progressed to the point where he can be one of the team’s key offensive players in 2015-16?

Yeah!  I mean, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was tied with Eberle last year when it came to leading the team in goals.  RNH has evolved so much into a player that sees the ice well and plays a well-balanced 60 minutes while giving 100 percent each shift.  He is definitely a key for the Oilers this year.

4) After the Oilers’ last attempt at making a star goalie’s backup failed over the past two seasons with Ben Scrivens, they’re trying that trick again with Cam Talbot this year. What are your early impressions of the new goalie?

He’s been great.  Sure, he’s 0-2, and at the end of the day, that’s the big stat, but he has a 2.05 GAA and a .929 save percentage.  The former Rangers backup has been a stone wall in net.  It’d really help if the defense stepped it up for him.  If they did, W’s would come Talbot’s way and he’d perform even better in net.

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5) With guys like Jeff Petry, Nikita Nikitin, and Martin Marincin gone, it’s clear that the Oilers have gone a bit of a defensive overhaul recently. What are your thoughts on the remodeled defensive group, and are players like Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom good enough to lead the defensive corps? Should we expect to see Darnell Nurse contributing to this group later in the season?

The defense sadly is not ready to go yet, and it’s not up to standards (at least for me).  I’ve never been nuts about Justin Schultz, but Klefbom really is a great defender.  Our defense still looks like the same old Oilers defense.  We need to get it going again.  I expect to see Nurse, definitely, but not until we absolutely 100 percent need him.  Again, it’s been three games.

6) Which player on the Oilers’ roster is going to surprise us most in 2015-16?

I’m going to go with Nail Yakupov.  He’s the struggling Russian right wing who has had trouble scoring goals since being drafted into the NHL.  However, with McDavid around and his move up to the top six (finally!), I see him really turning our heads around and being at least a 20-goal scorer.  I truly believe it.

Thanks to Sammi, and be sure to check out her coverage over at Oil on Whyte.

For the second straight game in the Blues’ young season, they’ll have to deal with the loss of a key player due to injury. After the Blues played without concussed rookie forward Robby Fabbri for the first time this year on Tuesday, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is expected to miss Thursday’s game with what seems to be a relatively non-serious lower-body injury. While Chris Butler was recalled to the NHL club on Wednesday to provide extra depth, he’ll be a healthy scratch against Edmonton while Robert Bortuzzo gets back into the lineup alongside Joel Edmundson.

For the first time this season, the Blues won’t stick to what has been a game-by-game goalie rotation between Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Elliott will get the start against Edmonton, who he allowed to score just one goal on 24 shots a week ago, while Allen is expected to be back in net against Vancouver for the second game of the back-to-back on Friday.

Here’s how the Blues’ line combinations figure to look on Thursday:

Alexander Steen-Paul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Jaden SchwartzJori LehteraScottie Upshall

Dmitrij JaskinDavid BackesTroy Brouwer

Steve OttKyle BrodziakRyan Reaves

Alex PietrangeloJay Bouwmeester

Carl GunnarssonColton Parayko

Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo

Brian Elliott

Next: Blues Recall Chris Butler, Place Robby Fabbri on IR