The Edmonton Oilers will wrap up a five-game homestand Sunday night against the St. Louis Blues minus top scorer Ales Hemsky.
The Oilers, losers of two straight after opening the home run with a pair of victories, placed Hemsky on the injured reserve list prior to Friday's 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Hemsky, suffering from a concussion, did not practise with the Oilers Saturday and is not expected to play against the Blues, and there has been no suggestion as to when he might return to the lineup.
Hemsky has sat out the last five games for Edmonton after suffering a concussion in a 5-2 victory over Nashville on Dec. 28.
The continued absence of Hemsky is a big blow for the Oilers, as the talented right-winger leads the team in scoring with 35 points (10 goals and 25 assists) in 34 games this season.
With Hemsky still out, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish believes his teammates have to play smart hockey and not take chances with their health by being overly physical on the ice.
"All we can do is try to keep ourselves in it, keep ourselves healthy and try to dodge any further injuries as best we can," MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun. "We have to try to play better.
"We didn't play great the last couple of games — that's obvious — and that's not attributable to guys being injured. We just need better performances in here from a bunch of guys."
Oilers a bit squeaky
Frustration has clearly set in, as the players held a closed-door meeting after Friday's loss to the Sharks.
"We have to be able to find a way to prepare and come out and play with emotion every night," defenceman Steve Staios said. "That's been lacking in this room. Whether we win or lose, we have to do it in the fashion we are used to, and that hasn't been happening for a while here."
While the Oilers have hit a rough patch, the Blues are riding high with wins in their last two games, including a 6-4 victory in Vancouver on Friday night.
Edmonton begins a three-game road trip in Washington on Jan. 13, followed by visits to Minnesota (Jan. 15) and Colorado (Jan. 16), before hosting Phoenix next Sunday in the opening contest of a six-game homestand.
On Sunday, the Oilers placed enforcer Zach Stortini (a lower body injury) and recalled Ryan Potulny from their American Hockey League affiliate. Potulny leads Springfield in scoring with 31 points in 36 games this season.