(Edmonton) After their longest playoff run in 16 years in 2022, the Edmonton Oilers have the ammunition to go further.
While there is currently no duo on the hockey planet that is better than captain Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers have more depth and the players have more experience heading into the 2023 playoffs.
“To play in a Canadian market, in a place like Edmonton and with the squad we have, it’s exciting,” forward Evander Kane said Sunday.
The Oilers open the Stanley Cup playoffs against a familiar opponent.
The Alberta squad will face off against the Los Angeles Kings in a resumption of the first-round series between the two teams in 2022. The 2023 matchup begins at Rogers Place on Monday night.
Trailing 3-2 in the series against the Kings, the Oilers had won two straight games to advance to the second round of the playoffs. They then won Alberta’s first battle in 31 years in five games against the Calgary Flames.
The Oilers were swept in four games against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.
The Oilers (50-23-9) finished second in the Pacific Division ahead of the third-place Kings (47-25-10).
Both teams shared season series honors, but the Oilers have beaten the Kings twice in the past three weeks.
“It’s going to be a tight series for sure,” Nugent-Hopkins said. These guys always make scoring chances difficult, but the way we’ve played in the last month, we make them difficult too. »
Game 2 of this best-of-seven series is Wednesday night at Rogers Arena, where the Oilers are 23-12-6 this season.
The Kings went 26-11-4 at Crypto.com Arena, which will host the next two games.
McDavid, who won the Art Ross Trophy with 64 goals and 89 assists, and Draisaitl combined for 116 goals and 281 points in 2022-23.
The duo lead a devastating power play, which has found the back of the net 32.4% of the time this season, a record in NHL history.
If the Kings tried to contain the tandem, the Oilers have other options to break through the opposing defense.
Nugent-Hopkins had a career-high 37 goals and 67 assists, helping the Oilers become the first team since the 1996 Pittsburgh Penguins to see three of its players earn 100 points in a single season.
Zach Hyman set a career high with 36 goals. Kane, who missed 31 games during the season, brings a lot of character and goalscoring.
“He’s a warrior that’s built for this time of year,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft noted.
Both teams will have goaltenders who have never experienced the playoffs or who have not played many games in such a situation.
The 24-year-old Stuart Skinner will make his playoff debut for the Oilers. On the Kings side, Pheonix Copley has no playoff experience, but Joonas Korpisalo does.
The 28-year-old Finn, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the trade deadline in March, has made nine playoff starts.
The Kings won’t be without star defenseman Drew Doughty this time around. Doughty had missed the series against the Oilers due to wrist surgery.