The Blues step into Rogers Place for the first time on Thursday evening.
The St. Louis Blues visit Edmonton for the first time in the Rogers Place era on Thursday night, getting an introduction to a shiny new arena that the Oilers have already utilized for three regular season games. Though they dealt with an offseason of ridicule, highlighted by their decision to trade star forward Taylor Hall for defenseman Adam Larsson and their choice to make 19-year-old Connor McDavid their captain, the Oilers have gotten off to an impressive start.
Through four games, the Oilers are 3-1, and McDavid has looked like the superstar talent that the Oilers believed they were getting when they took him first overall in last year’s draft. McDavid has three goals and three assists thus far and has been a major difference-maker. In another positive turn of events, yet another one of the Oilers’ many early draft picks–20-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who was taken third overall in 2014–has two goals and four assists through the first four games, and after putting up 51 points in 72 games last season, he looks like he’s a legitimate top-six forward with the potential to become an impactful top-line player as he progresses.
While the anticipated season debut of Jaden Schwartz will steal some of the thunder, the major story for the Blues on Thursday night is forward Nail Yakupov’s first time facing an Oilers team that traded him earlier this month. The 23-year-old Yakupov, who was the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, was traded for a package that basically amounted to chump change right before the start of the regular season as the Oilers soured on him.
He’s been decently productive thus far in St. Louis, collecting a goal and an assist through four games, so it will be interesting to see if he’s a little bit more fired up than usual as he faces his former team. While the possible returns of Schwartz and Kyle Brodziak will likely help, the Blues could use some extra fire from Yakupov; they dropped Tuesday night’s game 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks as a decimated offense struggled to get things going against the Canucks’ backup goalie, Jacob Markstrom.
Let’s take a look at how the Blues’ lineup is expected to look on Thursday: