Yakupov returns to Edmonton as member of Blues

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Thursday's game between the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers will mark a few homecomings.

All eyes will be on Nail Yakupov, who the Oilers traded to the Blues before the start of the season. Yakupov has been widely regarded as a draft bust; the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, the Russian right winger got only 50 goals in 252 games as an Oiler.

In four games with the Blues, Yakupov has a goal and an assist.

"It is weird," Yakupov told Oilers play-by-play man Jack Michaels in a 630 CHED interview. "When I was here, I didn't expect that I would stay in a hotel in this city, because I lived in this city. But, it's different. But, it's really good, now, we have a good team and a good group."

"He is fitting in," said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo of his new teammate. "It's a different environment coming in -- and new linemates. I think he's playing a pretty hard game. He's created some really good chances. It's new systems for him ... but he's adjusting pretty well."

Blues put Jori Lehtera on IR
 

But it's another Russian who is lighting it up for St. Louis. Vladimir Tarasenko is tied for the league lead with four goals.

And, Thursday will also mark the final time Ken Hitchcock will coach an NHL game in his hometown.

Unless he has a change of heart, Hitchcock, an Edmonton native, is in his final season as a head coach. The Blues visit Rogers Place only once this season.

The Blues have started Hitchcock's final season in blistering fashion. Despite losing 2-1 in overtime in Vancouver on Tuesday night, the Blues are 3-0-1. It marks only the second time in team history that the Blues have earned points in the first four games of a regular season.

Meanwhile, the Oilers have won three of their first four, and scored 17 times in the process. Thursday's game, though, is the team's fourth home game of the season already -- the Oilers have played just one road date.

Because October is filled with so many home games for the Oilers, coach Todd McLellan said a good start to season isn't a want, it's a need.

"Having home games, and needing to put some points in the bank, knowing eventually you've got to go out on the road, we've been able to do that," he said. "I don't think anybody is comfortable yet, so we got some things we really need to work on. It keeps us on our edge, maybe I'm being too critical of our group."

The issue is that the Oilers have scored 17 (most in the Western Conference), but given up 15 (also most in the Western Conference). Each of the four games played so far this season have felt like a return to the Air Hockey Era of the 1980s.

But Oilers goalie Cam Talbot turned in his best performance of the season Tuesday, stopping 31 of 33 shots after giving up six goals in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday .

"I need a big bounce-back game, after the game I had last. As a team, I think that sometimes we let those losses kinda snowball in the past."

On Wednesday, Talbot and his wife welcomed twins to their family.

Oilers defenseman Mark Fayne left Tuesday's win over Carolina with a lower-body injury. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday and the Oilers called up defenseman Ben Betker from their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, Calif. The Oilers did not practice Wednesday.

The Blues placed Jori Lehtera, who hurt his hip Saturday in a win over the New York Rangers, on injured reserve Wednesday, which opens up a roster spot.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment