Scenes from Morning Skate: Oilers and Panthers both taking things one day at a time

Photo credit:Cam Lewis
Cam Lewis
1 month ago
The Edmonton Oilers are down to their last strike.
After dropping Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Florida, the Panthers came into Edmonton and pushed the Oilers against the wall with a 4-3 victory in Game 3.
The Oilers will now look to become the second team in NHL history to come back from being down 3-0 in the Final and win the Stanley Cup. The first step will be winning Game 4 in Edmonton on Saturday evening.

Edmonton Oilers Line Combinations at Morning Skate

  • F1: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zach Hyman 
  • F2: Warren Foegele – Leon Draisaitl – Corey Perry
  • F3: Mattias Janmark – Adam Henrique – Connor Brown
  • F4: Ryan McLeod – Derek Ryan – Dylan Holloway
  • F5: Sam Gagner – Sam Carrick – Lane Pederson
  • D1: Mattias Ekholm – Evan Bouchard 
  • D2: Philip Broberg – Vincent Desharnais 
  • D3: Brett Kulak – Cody Ceci
There were two absences during the Oilers’ full team practice on Friday as Darnell Nurse and Evander Kane weren’t on the ice. Nurse didn’t practice on Wednesday but suited up in Game 3 for the Oilers while Kane was a scratch on Thursday following a practice in which he came on the ice and left shortly after a conversation with head coach Kris Knoblauch.
The top forward line of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Zach Hyman remained intact at practice, as did the third line of Adam Henrique, Mattias Janmark, and Connor Brown. The only change among the forwards from Game 3 was Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod switching spots, as the former joined Leon Draisaitl and Corey Perry on the second line.
The defensive pairings were also largely the same, with Mattias Ekholm next to Evan Bouchard and Brett Kulak with Cody Ceci. With Nurse out, Vincent Desharnais lined up alongside Philip Broberg at practice.
Friday’s skate also saw Sam Gagner take the ice with the main group. The 34-year-old has played 570 regular season games with the Oilers over three different tenures but has never played a playoff game with the team.

Words from Kris Knoblauch, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Mattias Ekholm

Being on the verge of losing in the Stanley Cup Final is uncharted territory for many players on the Oilers. Among those on the team who have experienced losing at this stage is Mattias Ekholm, who came up short with the Nashville Predators back in 2017.
“Everything on my mind is how we win tomorrow,” Ekholm said. “I can bring out the cliches, one game at a time. But that’s what it is.
Through three games, have we deserved to win a game? I think so. I think we’ve had two pretty good games. It’s four games. We’ve had stretches of eight and sixteen games during the season, we won three straight against Dallas.”
Though many have counted the Oilers out, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said that the players in the dressing room still believe that they can come back and win the series.
“All season, our backs have been against the wall and we’ve found ways to get out of it. It’s just a belief in this room,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It helps that we’ve played two good hockey games and we know we have the ability to do it. We can take a lot from the start of the season and even different times in the playoffs when we’ve been down we haven’t given up on each other. That speaks to the character in the room.”
The Oilers have played well in two of three games but weren’t able to beat the Panthers in either of them. When asked what the difference has been in the series, head coach Kris Knoblauch said that Florida has been able to convert on their chances while Edmonton hasn’t.
“Finishing right, being able to put the puck in the net, whether that’s missed opportunities while shooting or goalies making big saves, Knoblauch said. “The first and third games, we’ve liked our games. If you look at our series against Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Dallas, we’re getting more chances in our favour against Florida than those three. It comes down to putting the puck in the net.”

The Florida Panthers are taking things one day at a time

The Panthers have found themselves in a very different situation this year than last.
In the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers were pounded by scores of 5-2 and 7-2 in Games 1 and 2 by the Vegas Golden Knights. They kept the series alive with an overtime victory in Game 3 but the Golden Knights came back and finished things off with a 3-2 win in Game 4 and a 9-3 thrashing in Game 5.
The team that got hammered last spring is now on the verge of a sweep. Despite being just one win away from their first Stanley Cup in team history, the Panthers recognize that there’s still work to do.
“You consume the moment. You don’t let it consume you,” veteran forward Kyle Okposo said. “I think that that’s extremely important. The second that you start looking around and going, ‘Oh my God, we’re a few wins away from winning the Stanley Cup!’ then you start to do things that you haven’t done all year. So you have to make sure that you are staying in the moment. But you also understand where you’re at and you don’t let that bog you down.”
How are the Panthers going to approach Game 4 in Edmonton? Head coach Paul Maurice said that he’ll sort that out on Saturday as his team is still taking things one day at a time.
“I don’t know yet,” Maurice said. “We finished playing then got up this morning and did some video with players. What we’ll do is, we’ve got a structure for our day-to-day. We talk about this all the time, so this isn’t the first time they’ve heard it: handle your day. We have a structure for that.
“Tomorrow, through the morning skate and the team meal and things, just kind of move around the players and feel where they’re at. I won’t do it today, and then I’ll take stock of where I’m at mentally, where my thoughts wander to in this situation. Do I need to rein myself in and focus? If I’m going through it, there’s a chance something in the room is. I’ll base a lot of what I’ll do and what I’ll say and how we’ll act tomorrow on that.”

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