SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers at the crossroads

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- St. Louis is considered the gateway to the West, the last stop before early settlers ventured into the unknown.

For the Edmonton Oilers, that gateway will either lead up or down the Western Conference standings, as they take on the St. Louis Blues tonight (6:30 p.m.) at the Scottrade Center.

Lose, and the Oilers are suddenly on an extended losing skid with encounters in Detroit and Minnesota to go on this three-game road trip.

"It's a big game, especially after the last couple where we haven't come out with the intensity and played the type of game we wanted," said centre Shawn Horcoff.

"But we're still right in there with everyone else and we realize that we can still make a move at this time of year.

"If we can put together a good amount of wins in our next 10 games, we'll put ourselves in a comfortable position."

The last time the Oilers were here, they spotted the Blues a two-goal lead before storming back for a 4-2 victory.

It's probably not the type of game plan they want to repeat, considering St. Louis has been playing better of late and is still within throwing distance of a playoff spot despite currently sitting last in the conference standings.

"Obviously, you'd like to start any road trip with a win," said defenceman Tom Gilbert. "They're playing really well right now. For us, it's a matter of trying to be more consistent and put a full 60 minutes together. That's been our biggest problem all year."

The 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday dropped the Oilers out of a playoff spot.

However, they're still treading water with six other teams that are within two points of each other.

Just a week ago, the Oilers were feeling good about themselves, having washed away the stench of a 10-2 loss to Buffalo with an inspired victory over the Wild.

But the Oilers weren't able to maintain the momentum and have since dropped a lacklustre affair to the Nashville Predators, then were out-classed by the Blackhawks.

"Regardless of where we play, we have to play with a little more intensity and we need guys to step up offensively," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"We just haven't been getting enough of that lately.

"We need the personnel on this team to prove they are capable of winning. We need more scoring throughout our lineup, and until we get that, we're going to have some issues."

One can sense the players' frustration of not being able to answer the bell recently.

Beating teams below them in the standings and putting some distance between them is as important as reeling in the teams above.

"There is a quiet confidence that we have, but the whole point is trying to play that complete game," said Horcoff.

"I think a lot of times we get pretty tight, and when we play that way, it usually doesn't turn out very well for us.

"I just think we need some bounces, too.

"I know myself, I've had a few chances in the last few games, and they haven't gone in. I think it's the same for a lot of guys in the room.

"That happens throughout the season and things have a tendency to be cyclical.

"I think any day now, we just need that one game to get a few different guys on the board and get some confidence and we should be fine."

As has been the case all year, a win would go a long way into alleviating some of the pressure the club is currently under at the moment.

"You can't look too far ahead, the next game is too important," Horcoff said.

"Hopefully, we can put ourselves in a position where we can go into Detroit and steal a game and really come out ahead on this trip.

"But it all starts here in St. Louis."


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