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High-Paced Playoff Practice for Oilers, Evander Kane and Mattias Janmark not on Ice

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Jason Gregor
16 days ago
The phrase “the playoffs are a different beast” was on display this morning at the Oilers’ first playoff practice.
The heightened excitement, pace and intensity were palpable from the moment the players stepped on the ice.
Practice was supposed to start at 11 a.m. Players are usually on the ice a few minutes early, and the pace slowly creeps up. But today, the entire group was on early, so Kris Knoblauch started practice early, and the pace was quick, focused, and precise.
The adage “you play how you practice” is another accurate cliche. You can’t expect just to ratchet up your tempo in games. The Oilers will use today and tomorrow to ensure they are focused and playing fast because once the playoffs begin, practices are scarce. Unless you dispatch an opponent in four or five games, teams usually limit practice time for their top players.
“I wish guys practiced that hard all the time,” smiled Connor McDavid. “It was a good practice, up and down with pace. I thought the guys were dialled in.”
After an extremely busy start to the month with 10 games in 18 days, including five games in the final seven days of the regular season, the Oilers are relishing their current three days between games. They had yesterday off and will skate today and tomorrow. There will be no surprises when facing the LA Kings for the third consecutive season, so what is McDavid hoping his group focuses on during their two practices?
“You just want to feel good about yourself,” he said. “Make sure everything is ready to go. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. We’ve played 82 games. It has been a long year already, and just make sure your game is where it needs to be. Just do some checks (internally).”
The Oilers should be ready. They have a very experienced group.
McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play their 50th playoff games on Monday. They are tied for ninth-most playoff games among Oilers skaters.
Corey Perry will skate in his 197th playoff game, moving him one ahead of Steve Yzerman and three back of Jari Kurri and Zdeno Chara for 20th all time. Monday will be Mattias Ekholm’s 88th playoff game, and here are the others with more than McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH: Cody Ceci (65th), Zach Hyman (61st), Warren Foegele (59th), Evander Kane (57th) and Brett Kulak (52nd). Mattias Janmark has played 66 playoff games, but he’s banged up and it is unclear  if he will play in game one. Darnell Nurse will skate in his 48th playoff game. The only Oilers with fewer than 25 NHL playoff games are Troy Stecher (21), Stuart Skinner (12), Vincent Desharnais (12), Sam Gagner (11), Dylan Holloway (1 and only 3:27 of TOI), Sam Carrick (0) and Calvin Pickard (0).
The Oilers have skill, size, speed and experience. They’ve suffered some playoff heartache, but they’ve learned from those, and they should win this series. There are no guarantees in the playoffs, which makes them so exciting, but Edmonton has had the best record in the NHL since Knoblauch and Paul Coffey joined the team on November 12th. They are good, and Monday is their first opportunity to show how much they’ve matured as a team.

INJURIES…

Feb 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Mattias Janmark (26) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Kane and Janmark didn’t skate today. Kane hasn’t played or skated with the team since April 13th. He missed the final three regular season games. Knoblauch did say he expects Kane to be on the ice tomorrow, and he is hopeful he’ll be an option for game one. He wasn’t as confident about Janmark. He said he is getting treatment but wouldn’t commit to him skating tomorrow.
The good news for the Oilers is they have more depth than they’ve had in years. Dylan Holloway has played very well  with three goals in six games since being recalled from Bakersfield. If Kane and Janmark are both available for game one, Knoblauch will have a tough decision on who to sit out, but based on Knoblauch’s comments the main decision he might have, for game one at least, is who will centre the fourth line. Will Derek Ryan play in his 42nd playoff game, or will Carrick skate in his first?
Regardless of who plays, if today’s practice is any indication, the Oilers will be focused, fast and prepared on Monday.

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