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Mar 31, 2024 8:07 pm

Desperately needing wins, Blues face red-hot Oilers

Connor McDavid

During the first month of the season, the Edmonton Oilers didn’t look like a playoff team, and Connor McDavid didn’t look like a scoring champion.

Their appearance is much different these days.

After starting the season 2-9-1, the Oilers have gone 43-14-3 heading into their game Monday night against the Blues in St. Louis.

After scoring two goals and earning eight assists in his first 11 games, McDavid scored 27 goals and earned 88 assists in his next 59 games to climb into a three-way race with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the scoring title.

MacKinnon leads the league with 127 points, followed by Kucherov (126) and McDavid (125).

“It’s nice, I guess; it’s a position I’ve been in many times before,” McDavid told reporters after he scored two goals and earned an assist in Edmonton’s 6-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night. “We’re playing for things bigger than that. We’re playing to make sure our game is in order, and we’re still playing for (playoff) positioning.

“Lots of hockey left — 10 games left. You never know what can happen down the stretch, and we’ll see what happens.”

McDavid is a five-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s points leader. His teammates would love to see him get No. 6.

“We were all struggling early on, so to see him on top right now, it’s pretty awesome,” Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “You (media) guys have seen his game in the last three months; it’s been unbelievable how he’s been carrying us. He’s the best player in the world, and there is no shock to my mind that he’s there.”

The Oilers (45-23-4, 94 points) bring a three-game winning streak into St. Louis. They are catching the Blues (39-31-4, 82 points) coming off a crushing 4-0 loss at home to the lowly San Jose Sharks.

Blues captain Brayden Schenn couldn’t explain why his team fell apart during the game.

“I don’t have words for that. Trying to come up with something for you, but the reality of it, I don’t have an answer,” Schenn said. “Just, it can’t this time a year, the position where we’re in with our team, where we are, how far we’ve fought to get to this position, to let one slip against a team like that.”

The Blues had gone 7-1-1 in their previous nine games while the Sharks had gone 1-15-3 in their previous 19 games. By failing to dispatch San Jose, the Blues moved closer to elimination in the Western Conference playoff race.

St. Louis is five points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff slot, and the Kings have played one fewer game.

“We can’t lose a game for the rest of the year to at least give ourselves a chance,” Schenn said. “We know where we’re at, and got to find a way to win a game Monday.”

These teams split their first two games this season, with each team winning at home. St. Louis won 6-3 on Feb. 15 behind Jordan Binnington’s 35 saves, and Edmonton pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory on Feb. 28, with Stuart Skinner stopping 32 shots.

–Field Level Media

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