Oilers coach issues warning: 'Any step back and we're in trouble'

‘As good as we were last game, it’s probably not good enough to beat Dallas in an elimination game.’

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The Dallas Stars are the team facing elimination tonight, but the Edmonton Oilers aren’t kidding themselves — this might as well be Game 7.

Lose tonight and instead of celebrating a Western Conference championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, they are flying back to Texas for a do-or-die showdown in enemy territory.

“We’ve been very happy with how we played but we just squeaked out a couple of wins,” said Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch. “Any step back and we’re in a lot of trouble. As good as we were last game, it’s probably not good enough to beat Dallas in an elimination game. Our team has to be even better than we were the last two games.”

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‘What’s at stake’

The Oilers were just down 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, so they know exactly what’s going through the minds of the Dallas players. They know exactly how dangerous desperation and adrenaline can be when mixed together. So nobody needs to tell them that whatever they saw from the Stars in Games 4 and 5 is nothing compared with what’s waiting for them tonight in Rogers Place.

“Any time your season is on the line you find an extra level, you just have to,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman. “We experienced that in the Vancouver series. You just don’t have a choice. If you want your season to continue you need to find another level.

“On the flip side for us, we need to be able to match that. To put a team away at home is a huge opportunity, especially with the crowd tonight and everything that’s on the line. The hardest thing to do is win the fourth one.”

With the Oilers one win away from meeting Florida in the final, Rogers Place is going to be as loud as its been since the Oilers moved in there in 2016. The key for the Oilers will be to use that to their advantage and not let the enormity of the situation weight them down.

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“Everybody knows what’s at stake but we’re preparing like it’s a normal game day,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, adding the pulse of the team felt nice and calm Sunday morning. 

“As a leader in the room, you’re always taking the temperature of the room and feeling what the vibe is and it does feel like a regular game day. If there was any sense of nerves or anxiety maybe I would say something but I’m not sensing any of that.”

Veteran defenceman Mattias Ekholm’s only advice to the Oilers on the morning of this epic contest is to keep doing what got you here and savour the opportunity.

“Nerves come into play and all that stuff, but at the end of the day it’s a hockey game,” he said. “It’s a stressful situation but you don’t get here too often. It’s about enjoying it and going out and doing your best.”

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