WATCH LIVE: Blues host Oilers on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

The Edmonton Oilers experienced something they never want to endure again (at least for … 20 years?) on Monday: life without Connor McDavid. As you likely expected, it didn’t go well, as they lost 4-1 to the Dallas Stars.

McDavid is expected to play against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, however, so do you really need any other reason to tune in? You have seen the guy play, right?

Luckily, there are some other storylines to follow.

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Ken Hitchcock is still getting his bearings with his new team, the Oilers. He likely feels some sympathy for Craig Berube, who’s an in-season replacement in St. Louis, much like Hitchcock was — and then how Hitchcock left.

Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl against Ryan O'Reilly, and Chief vs. Hitch. The Blues are in a very tough spot, while the Oilers’ playoff hopes are very much alive (yet by no means guaranteed), so this will be one to watch.

[EXTENDED PREVIEW]

What: Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues
Where: Enterprise Center
When: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Oilers – Blues stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

OILERS

Alex Chiasson / Connor McDavid / Leon Draisaitl
Jujhar Khaira / Ryan Nugent-Hopkins / Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic / Kyle Brodziak / Zack Kassian
Ryan Spooner / Patrick Russell / Ty Rattie

Oscar Klefbom / Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse / Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel / Matt Benning

Starting goalie: Cam Talbot

BLUES

Zach Sanford / Ryan O’Reilly / Robert Thomas
David Perron / Brayden Schenn / Jordan Kyrou
Patrick Maroon / Tyler Bozak / Vladimir Tarasenko
Jordan Nolan / Ivan Barbashev / Oskar Sundqvist

Joel Edmundson / Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn / Robert Bortuzzo
Jay Bouwmeester / Chris Butler

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues slight favorites vs. Oilers for Wednesday Night Hockey

The St. Louis Blues will be trying to prove a point to their former coach when they face the Edmonton Oilers, who have struggled on the road even when superstar center Connor McDavid is healthy.

The Blues are the slim -120 betting favorite with the Oilers coming back at -105 with a 5.5-goal total for Wednesday night’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The tight moneyline is a commentary on both teams’ travails this season, as the Blues, now under the command of interim coach Craig Berube, are 2-6 in their last eight games. In the longer run, St. Louis is 11-7 in its last 18 home games as a favorite of -115 to -135 on the moneyline. The Oilers, with Ken Hitchcock, who coached St. Louis from 2011 to 2017, are 1-7 in their last eight road games.

McDavid, who missed Edmonton’s most recent game due to flu-like symptoms, is expected to play. The Blues’ best defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo (hand), is on injured reserve.

The Oilers are 13-12-2 on the season, including a 6-8-1 away mark, thanks in large part to McDavid, who is sixth in NHL scoring with 35 points despite being part of the league’s 27th-ranked offense. The change in focus under Hitchcock could help the Oilers improve their trend of being 5-8 in their last 13 road games against Central Division teams.

Watch at 7 pm tonight on NBCSN, at NBCSports.com or on the NBC Sports app

Backing Edmonton does mean hoping their two major liabilities, lack of scoring depth beyond McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and a 26th-ranked penalty kill (75.6 per cent) can be overcome on a given night.

In goal, Edmonton is expected to start Cam Talbot, who has a 5-9-1 record, 3.29 goals-against average and .889 save percentage. Mikko Koskinen has been the more reliable goalie in Edmonton.

The Blues are 9-13-3 this season, including just 6-7-1 at the Enterprise Center, and the coaching change has yet to inspire results as they are just 2-4 with Berube behind the bench. If there are any positive signs with the Blues, right wing Vladimir Tarasenko is on a three-game goal streak and his move to a line centered by Tyler Bozak could make for a more balanced attack to go with the forward trios led by Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn.

St. Louis’ overall struggles have more to do with their 5-on-5 play, as they are 10th on both the power play (23.8 per cent, with Edmonton 14th at 21.2) and penalty kill (81.7 per cent).

Jake Allen, who is 7-7-3 with a 3.24 goals-against average and .896 save percentage, has had the bulk of the work in goal for the Blues.

The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Oilers’ last 10 games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Blues’ last 10 games. The total has gone UNDER in 13 of the Blues’ last 20 home games against Pacific Division teams.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Oilers go head-to-head with banged up Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Oilers are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night, but they played that game without superstar Connor McDavid (illness). It was the first time that McDavid missed time since he broke his collarbone during his rookie season. The good news for Edmonton, is that he was able to hit the ice for practice yesterday, so it appears as though he’ll be able to go against the Blues.

“We were either above the bar with a lot of guys or below the bar, nothing in between…really, you have to be able to win games if you’re missing one (premier) guy. It’s not the end of the world,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said after the loss to Dallas.

As you’d imagine, McDavid has been a huge part of the Oilers this season. Before missing Monday’s game, he had accumulated 14 goals and 35 points in just 26 games. Unfortunately for Edmonton, the lack of support for McDavid has translated into the team being outside of the playoff picture right now (they’re five points behind Minnesota for the last Wild Card spot).

On a positive note, they’ve been getting better results since Hitchcock took over behind the bench. With Hitchcock, the Oilers have gone 4-2-1. Sure, it’s a small sample, but they’ll take what they can get at this point.

Like the Oilers, the Blues also made a coaching change earlier this season, as they replaced Mike Yeo with Craig Berube. Not much has changed for St. Louis since Berube took over. With him, they’re 2-4-0, including an ugly 6-1 loss in Arizona on Saturday night.

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The fact that the injury bug has taken such a huge bite out of the Blues definitely won’t make things easier for them. St. Louis will be without Alex Pietrangelo (hand) and Robby Fabbri (shoulder) for the next little while. Both players will be re-evaluated around Christmas time. Alex Steen (concussion), Jaden Schwartz (upper body) and Carl Gunnarsson (upper body) are all day-to-day.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to realize that it’s time to step up for everybody,” defenseman Colton Parayko said. “It’s something that someone else has got to jump into different roles, maybe take on a different role and just bring something different each and every night and be prepared. Obviously at this point, we know where we’re at and we want to continue to get better and we want to climb the standings and that’s going to take a lot of commitment from everybody. Everyone’s got to play together and it’s not just going to happen in one game. It’s going to be a step up for everybody.”

The Blues need to go on a run if they want to salvage their season. They’re currently 11 points out of a playoff spot.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hitchcock’s first big change for Oilers: More McDavid, Draisaitl

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When Ken Hithcock was first hired to take over the sinking ship that was the Edmonton Oilers’ 2018-19 season he said a couple of things about Connor McDavid that were fairly intriguing.

First, he wanted to make sure McDavid was getting the puck on his stick sooner in the defensive zone. Common sense to want the game’s most dominant offensive force to get the puck as often as possible (and as soon as possible), especially on a team that is lacking in defenders that can efficiently move the puck out of their own zone? Sure it is. But the fact it was something they needed to address is a pretty good sign it wasn’t already happening before.

He also said this:

“His recovery rate, cardio wise, is astounding. He is able to get back up to speed quickly on the bench so that is something we have to take advantage of. More than anything he could come out every second shift if it stays 5-on-5 the way it did the last game.”

In other words, get him the puck more and get him on the ice more.

[Related: What will Ken Hitchcock mean for Connor McDavid

McDavid and the Oilers have still only played four games under Hitchcock, but the early results show he is getting on the ice far more often than he was under Todd McLellan earlier this season.

Four of McDavid’s top-10 games this season in terms of ice-time have been the four games he has played for Hitchcock.

It is also fair to point out that three of those games have gone to overtime so there are obviously more minutes to be had with the, but when you take a look at what percentage of the Oilers’ ice-time he is getting it paints a pretty clear picture — Hitch is using his best player as much as he can.

At least so far.

That is a pretty big increase, especially as it relates to the 5-on-5 play where McDavid went from playing 34 percent of the minutes under McLellan, to more than 41 percent over the past four games. Overall, he has played nearly 20 additional minutes at 5-on-5 in Hitchcock’s first four games than he did in McLellan’s final four games.

Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers’ other star forward, has also seen a jump in his ice-time with three of his top-six ice-time games for the season coming under Hitchcock.

Here are his total ice-time numbers.

Is this something that will continue the rest of the season? Is it even possible for them to keep playing that many minutes? Or is this just a small blip on the radar for a new coach trying to turn around a desperate team? We will obviously just have to see how that all plays out. For the time being, though, Hitchcock has clearly decided to lean on his two best players as much as he possibly can early on in his tenure behind the bench.

It is also probably his only chance to win right now given the state of the roster which is still mostly “McDavid, Draisaitl, and then pray somebody else does something.”

So far this season McDavid has already had a hand in 50 percent of the team’s goals, which is somehow an even bigger number than he accounted for a year ago when he “only” had a hand in 46 percent of the team’s goals.

There is also a massive change in the team’s performance. With McDavid on the ice at 5-on-5 play they outscore teams by a 19-14 margin. They get outscored 29-18 without him on the ice.

Playing your best player more isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel or revolutionizing the game here, but it at least shows the Oilers probably were not maximizing what McDavid (and Draisaitl) could do for them in the first part of the season.

The Oilers are 2-1-1 so far under Hitchcock and are back in action on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

McDavid and Draisaitl have combined for nine points in those first four games.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Oilers give Hitchcock winning start behind the bench

Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: It was the captain’s second assist of the night that helped set up the overtime winner during a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. It was his goal that started the scoring for Edmonton that was the 100th of his NHL career. With three points, McDavid now has 31 on the season.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers: Along with a pair of helpers, Draisaitl scored his sixth career overtime winner 51 seconds into the extra period. He now has 13 tallies on the year.

3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: His goal early in the second period knotted the score at two and gave him three points in his last four games and 20 on the season.

Highlights of the Night

• In his 230th NHL game, McDavid hit the 100-goal mark in his career. Per the NHL, he’s the second-youngest (21 years, 311 days) player to achieve the feat, behind only Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 40 days).

 

Joe Thornton’s assist on Marcus Sorensen’s goal tied him with Mario Lemieux (1,033) for 11th on the all-time NHL list.

Logan Couture notched his seventh on the season, thanks to a sweet dangle around Adam Larsson. He now has 19 goals against the Oilers in his career, the most versus any team.

Factoid of the Night

Per the NHL, “McDavid became the fifth different player in franchise history to reach the 30-point mark in a season in 21 or fewer team games and first since Mark Messier in 1989-90 (19 GP). The franchise record for fewest team games to record 30 points in a season is 10, a mark set by Gretzky in 1984-85.”

Tuesday’s result
Oilers 4, Sharks 3 (OT)

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.