No line-up changes for Oilers, Stars; Henrique, Hintz remain out

Article content

Playoff Game Day 3.1:
Edmonton at Dallas

Eight wins down, eight to go. The Edmonton Oilers got this close to the Stanley Cup two seasons ago, but no closer, losing four straight games in the Western Conference Finals to eventual champion Colorado Avalanche in a high-scoring but ultimately discouraging series.

Article content

Last time they got any closer was back in 2006, when they came within one agonizing game of the grail.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Make no mistake, the modern Oilers are a strong contender, having won five playoff series over the past three springs. But so too are all of the remaining clubs, each of whom is playing in their second conference final since 2022.

You can throw a blanket over all four clubs who have made it to this point:

thru 2 rounds

Of the four, the Oilers have the largest goal differential, with the highest figures in both goals for and against; their opponents, Dallas Stars, are at the opposite end of the spectrum with the best defensive record of the survivors.

Ah yes, the Dallas Stars. This will be the ninth playoff meeting between these two squads, second most of any opponent in Oilers history (Los Angeles Kings, 10). It’s the first time they’ve met as late as the conference finals since the Stars were the North Stars, based in Minnesota before their move to the Lone Star State in 1993. The Oilers swept Minny in 1984 enroute to their first Stanley Cup; the North Stars won in five in 1991 before losing the SCF to Pittsburgh Penguins.

Most Oilers fans will better remember the six series in seven years run from 1997-2003, all but one of them a first-round match-up. Edmonton won the first of those in epic fashion (Game 7 overtime) before the Stars methodically got their revenge with five straight triumphs, including a sweep of four one-goal games enroute to their only Stanley Cup in 1999.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

A quarter century later, both teams are looking for a return to their glory days.

Tonight’s line-up

Game 1 lineupSames lines, pairings and goaltender that played — and won — both Games 6 and 7 against the Canucks.

Oilers line-up

Kris Knoblauch pushed all the right buttons late in the Vancouver series, reinstating Stu Skinner between the pipes, reorganizing his defence pairings, and shuffling his bottom six. The decision to sit decorated veteran Corey Perry was a courageous one dictated by current performance, even as Perry will remain a viable option should the deck need further shuffling in games to come. So too will Adam Henrique, still nursing the injury that sidelined him for all but one ill-advised start in the Vancouver series.

Leon Draisaitl arrived in Dallas nursing a bandaged finger, probably the result of blocking a Conor Garland slapper in Game 7.  The bandage was gone by the time he and Mattias Ekholm faced the media hours later. Standard playoff bumps and bruises, one would hope, hardly worth mentioning were they not the silky hands of the NHL’s playoff scoring leader. Draisaitl has averaged two points per game and has found the scoresheet in all 12 contests to date.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Stars lineup 2

On the other side of the ice, the Stars will be missing a key player in centre Roope Hintz, who got banged up in Game 4 vs. the Avs. Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said the speedy two-way centre is getting close but remains out. Another important Star, netminder Jake Oettinger, left practice early on Wednesday feeling “under the weather” but is good to go tonight.

With just one game per day league-wide the rest of the way, the run of late starts has mercifully drawn to a close. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:40pm MDT tonight and in subsequent weeknight games in Edmonton. Saturday night’s Game 2 will be a half hour earlier.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

Article content