LOS ANGELES – Other than the fact that the lines have changed, No. 1 defender Darnell Nurse will be watching the match in streetwear, and the Edmonton Oilers face a high-pressure elimination game tonight in Los Angeles, and there wasn’t much going on. In the Wednesday morning skiing at the Crypto.com Arena.
So, where do you start?
“I’m not going to get into that thinking I’m trying to replace Norse,” said Brett Colak, who will replace the suspended nurse on pairing up with Cody Cisse. “I’m going to get a bigger role there, I’ll be on the ice a lot and playing against more different players than I’ve seen a lot of this series. So these are just little things I make myself aware of.”
The nurse was suspended for one game after a head-butting incident against Los Angeles Kings player Philip Danault in Game 6. So the Oilers’ assistant captain will be watching this game, hoping his team can win so he can play in Game Seven on Saturday night in Edmonton.
“We’ve played big games without Norse before, and had success without him before,” said Captain Conor McDavid. “He’s obviously a huge part of our squad and we miss him when he’s not playing, we have to do it again tonight.”
It looks like head coach Jay Woodcroft will use Chris Russell in a pairing with Tyson Barry and the 11 forward and seven defenders he’s never used before. Here’s how to set up the Oilers’ lines, outside of the morning ski:
Draisaitl – McDavid – Yamamoto
Kane – Nugent Hopkins – Heyman
Vogel – Ryan – Cassian
Colac – Sissy
Keith – Bouchard
Russell – Barry
We’ll expect McDavid and Draisaitl to play a lot more tonight than the 19:55 and 20:37 who scored respectively in Game 5. Putting them together is the go-to step for any desperately positioned coach like Woodcroft, down 3-2 and playing on the road.
“That’s what we went for in the third period of (Game 5), and I thought they dominated the game and were a big reason we were able to push it into overtime,” Woodcroft said. “I’ve seen for myself, especially early in their career, what kind of magic they can create.”
Woodcroft speaks when he was an assistant coach for the Oilers under Todd McClellan, who now coaches the Kings of course.
On Wednesday, they disagreed over where to press, as the series gives fans its first knockout match.
“We understand where the pressure lies, and the pressure is absolutely clear on the home team to try to finish that on the ice at home,” Woodcroft said.
At the Kings exercise, McClellan begged to disagree.
“Maybe I’m the only one who can talk to this, because I lived on their bench and now I’m living our seat. It’s completely different,” the veteran coach told reporters. “Our pressure is what we put on ourselves. Their pressure is tremendous all over the oil country and Canada, the stars, the media pressure, where they have been, and what they want to do.
“A lot of people who have followed this chain have used (the term) home money. We don’t see it that way, but it also creates a different set of pressure points for each organization.”
Colac is someone who has lived this before, as a member of the Montreal Canadiens a year ago.
“It was our first tour last year,” he recalls. “We lost 3-1 to the Leafs and came back and ended up winning one in seven.”
It’s easier to believe when you actually do it. Edmonton needs a win tonight in Los Angeles, as the Oilers have won three of four games against the Kings this season, then take it home for Game Seven at Rogers Place.
“It definitely helps you think about those moments,” Colak said. “It makes you feel good, like you feel no giving up in the room or in yourself in person. Come on, put on your work boots and make sure you’re strong and ready to go. Just trust our system.
“You know, we’re a good team and we feel good about things.”