SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers, Blues race to basement

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

ST. LOUIS — It’s like the Oilers and Blues stole each other’s road maps — unfortunately, both maps led to the cellar.

The clubs have taken near-identical nose dives that have them 14th and 15th in the Western Conference.

The Oilers were cruising along reasonably well, went on a 7-2-1 tear, then fell right off the face of the earth (3-15-3 in their next 21).

Same with the Blues. They were cruising along reasonably well, went on an 8-3-1 tear, then fell off the face of the earth (2-8-2 in their next 12).

“It’s crazy,” said Andy McDonald, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing 63 games with a concussion. “I watched them win five in a row, everything was going great, and all of a sudden we were nine points out.”

“I have no idea what happened,” added veteran Barret Jackman. “The first half was a blur.”

It’s too late for Edmonton, but the Blues are still within reach of the playoffs. They’re taking inspiration in what Calgary did, jumping from 14th to one point out with a couple of hot weeks.

“That’s exactly what we’re thinking,” said McDonald. “It’s hard not to look at the standings every day and see where you are, but the bottom line is we have to play the way we’re capable of, the way we were at the start of the season.”

FOUL MOUTH: Erik Johnson’s mouth is a gruesome mess after the prize defenceman took a puck in the face in practice earlier this week. It smashed out three front teeth and left him with stitches and dental posts hanging where the chicklets used to be.

It only hurts when he breathes.

“Obviously I’ve felt better, “ he said. “But stuff happens when you play hockey. I was just standing in front of the net, puck got tipped up and knocked these three front ones out. It didn’t hurt too bad at the time, knocked all the nerves out, but definitely the dental work wasn’t too fun.”

Miss a start? This ain’t Major League Baseball.

“You get it all numbed up and you’re ready to play,” he said, adding he’s got the same smile former Blue Keith Tkachuk has. “Guys said I look just like Walt, minus the ass and the 500 goals.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT? The Blues are tied for the NHL Lead in fighting majors, and it’s not by accident.

“We want to play aggressive and physical,” said Jackman. “It’s a fine line, but we definitely want to make it tough in the building and let teams know that it’s going to be a night where they have to outwork us to get a win. Whether it’s guys who are fighting or guys who are just playing hard, we have a physical and a tough team.”

Head coach Davis Payne said the Blues aren’t about circus fights, but rather scraps that are borne out of playing tough hockey in the tough areas.

“A lot of it is a product of getting all the way into the battle,” said Payne. “The fact we have guys willing to go that far is the type of hockey we feel is necessary. We want to be a team that you have to contend with in all areas and if that’s one of them, that’s fine with us.”

BACK FROM THE HEADACHE: The Blues welcomed Andy McDonald back after the centre missed 63 days with a concussion. It was a long, scary, frustrating stretch, not knowing when he’d be back, and unable to help his own cause.

“It’s kind of hard to go through,” he said. “They don’t tell you “It’s going to be four weeks, they just say, ‘Rest.’ You go from being active every day, working out, to being completely inactive.

“That in itself messes with your body. Sitting around, resting, sleeping. That’s hard. It can’t do much for your recovery but it’s a necessary thing to do.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI


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