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VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will face elimination for the first time in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday, but that’s not how veteran defenseman Ian Cole wants his teammates to approach Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena.

For Cole, who will play in his ninth Game 7, it’s more about embracing the opportunity.

“We're in a Game 7 against an extremely good hockey team that no one gave us a chance to really even be in the series with, so we're in a good spot,” said Cole, who is 4-4 in Game 7s. “We got one game at home to win the series. Taking a step back, putting it into some perspective, I think we should be very excited at the opportunity that we have, and we should be very energized by that.”

Edmonton appeared to be the more energized team when it faced elimination for the first time in Game 6 on Saturday, winning by a decisive 5-1 score. The Oilers outshot the Canucks 27-15 in that game and controlled play for prolonged stretches while preventing Vancouver from establishing a forecheck or generating much offense.

“We respond well after we don't bring our A-game, so we expect the same as a group. That's part of the culture in here and the standard, so that's what we're looking forward to,” said forward J.T. Miller, who is 1-3 in Game 7s, including a 3-0 loss with the Canucks against the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round in 2020. “It's going to be hard and that's the fun part of it. You got to embrace the hardness. If you want an easy night, then you're going to struggle tomorrow. It's pretty simple and you can't hide in games like these. You’ve got to embrace it and we've been talking about that all season long.”

It's a season that started with outside expectations that the Canucks would be in a tough position just to make the playoffs. Even president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said on the eve of training camp they were a playoff team “if everything goes right.”

Instead, the Canucks went 50-23-9 despite losing No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko because of an injury for five weeks late in the season. They finished five points ahead of the Oilers (49-27-6) to win the Pacific Division for the first time since 2013, then they defeated the Nashville Predators in the first round in six games.

Tune in to see the Oilers battle the Canucks for Western Conference Final berth

Now, they have a chance to play in the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2011.

“The moment can't be too big for us,” Cole said. “It's something we need to embrace. We know it's going to be absolutely electric in here, and we need to respond accordingly. Game 7 is do or die at this point, so we're going to need to flush everything that's happened up to this point and win one hockey game.”

The Canucks have only led for 33 seconds in the past three games, winning Game 5 after Miller scored to make it 3-2 at 19:27 of the third period.

The penalty kill has improved as the series has gone on, killing off all eight chances over the past two games, including 55 seconds at 5-on-3 in Game 6, against an Oilers power play that had scored every game prior.

However, Vancouver's power play has dried up, going 0-for-11 over the past three games, including failing to convert on a 5-on-3 for 56 seconds in Game 6. At times, the power play has struggled just to set up.

“We know what works against these guys, so it's going to be whoever wants it more and it's going to be a big will game,” Miller said.

The quick, clean breakout passes and extended forecheck time that led to a Game 5 victory were missing in the Game 6 loss.

“It’s got nothing to do with Xs and Os last game and they know it,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “It's Game 7. We've seen enough video, we've seen this team, it's going to be seven straight games. It's not Xs and Os. We know how they want to play. They know how we want to play, and it really comes down to execution.”

In a series where the first five games were all decided by one goal, neither team has won consecutive games and momentum hasn’t meant much from one game to the next. Still, the Oilers appear to have more of it going into Game 7.

“This group, we're fighters,” said defenseman Carson Soucy. “Right from training camp we came in with a mindset this year was going to be different. We showed that through the year, ups and downs we're going to come back the next game ready to play.”

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