Corey Perry return to final tv tonight

EDMONTON -- Very little fazes Corey Perry these days.

The 39-year-old Edmonton Oilers forward has seen almost everything, professionally and personally, during a career that has stretched across 19 seasons.

Certainly, facing a 2-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers isn’t a major cause for concern.

Perry, who is expected to be back in the lineup for Game 3 at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC) after being a healthy scratch for Game 2, has faced longer odds this season alone.

"A lot of different things happened this year, a lot of ups and downs,” Perry said before Game 1 of the Final last week. “It's not the easiest thing to go through as a person. There were some dark times going through the year, but we're on the other side of that now and I'm excited to be here.”

Perry started the season with the Chicago Blackhawks after they acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft on June 29, 2023. One of his roles was to serve as a mentor for rookie Connor Bedard, who the Blackhawks selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft a month earlier.

Perry had nine points (four goals, five assists) in the first 16 games with Chicago, but on Nov. 28, the Blackhawks announced his contract had been terminated because of what the team called “unacceptable conduct,” making him a free agent.

Two days later, Perry announced he was seeking treatment for mental health issues and struggles with alcohol.

At that point, he had no idea what the future held. His health the sole priority, his hockey legacy was put in limbo.

“Those were hard times, you don’t know what’s next,” Perry said.

He hoped good things were on the horizon. He stayed in shape and he prepared himself physically and mentally to play NHL hockey again.

The Oilers, believing they had a team ready to contend for the Stanley Cup, rewarded his perseverance, signing him to one-year contract Jan. 22.

The Oilers wanted a player who had been through the playoff wars, one who could provide some sandpaper when things were no longer smooth in the postseason.

"A lot of leadership, I guess that's a big term,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said when asked about Perry’s value to the team. “I think a lot of guys have a lot of respect for him just because of his resume and everything that he's accomplished in his career. I know throughout the season he's spoken up on things that needed to be addressed with our team and how we have been playing and righted the ship a lot of the times.

“The intangibles of his game I think go a lot further."

Perry knew the gaudy numbers of his youth, which included winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the League’s leading goal-scorer with 50 in 2010-11, and a featured role were no longer possible. He just wanted an opportunity to shine on a stage he is familiar with.

This is the fifth time Perry has been in to the Cup Final, each time with a different team. He is the only player in NHL history to do that. He has played in 210 NHL postseason games, which is the most among active players and 15th in League history.

“This is what I want to be doing,” he said. “You want to be playing in June. You want to be playing for the Stanley Cup and I've had that opportunity the last few years. You don't get many chances. That's why you play this game. This is why we grew up playing.”

Perry won the Stanley Cup in 2007 as a 22-year-old in his second season in the NHL. The Anaheim Ducks were in their ascendancy and Perry, selected by Anaheim with the No. 28 pick in 2003 NHL Draft, had the world at his skates, until he didn’t.

Anaheim never got back to the Stanley Cup Final, never recaptured the magic of ’07.

“When you win it your second year in the League and you have that opportunity to feel what it feels like, you think it’s going to happen all the time,” Perry said. “You think the same team is going to come back, you think everything is going to be the same, but that is not how it works in pro sports. People change, new people come in.

“You don’t take anything for granted. It took me 12 years to get back. The years start to pile up, pile up and you start to think you might never get back.”

Perry made it to the conference final twice more with the Ducks, the last time in 2017, when they lost to the Nashville Predators. Perry played two more seasons with the Ducks but missed most of the 2018-19 season after having surgery to repair the medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his right knee. On June 19, 2019, the Ducks bought out the final two seasons of the eight-year contract he signed with them on March 18, 2013.

That started his life as a hockey vagabond, each season ending in a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, a combination of the power of good fortune and the value of hard work.

In the 2019-20 season, as a member of the Dallas Stars, he lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The next season, with the Montreal Canadiens, he lost to the Lightning again. In 2022, he thought he outwitted the system by joining the Lightning, only to see Tampa Bay’s bid for a three-peat scuttled at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

When Perry was traded to the rebuilding Blackhawks before the start of the 2023-24 season, he thought his chances at winning the Stanley Cup for a second time were done.

Now they are not. They are alive and he refuses to take any of this for granted.

He does what he is asked. He plays fourth-line minutes, he speaks up when needed, he pays the price physically and he has even played the part of good soldier when he has been scratched during this playoff run, like he was in Game 2 of the Final, something that is new to his experience.

“You definitely think of him as a goal-scorer, but I mean, how hard he plays is something that we see on a day-to-day basis,” Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “How hard he works. He’s a great leader for us and a lot easier to have on your team than to play against your team.”

That’s music to Perry’s ears. He wasn’t sure he would ever help a team when it mattered most again.

So, he’s ready to do whatever it takes.

“It’s still hockey,” says Perry, who has played 1,311 regular-season NHL games. “You still have to go out and outperform, outbattle and beat the other team or the guy standing [across from] you. Experience here or experience there, yeah, but it’s still hockey. You have to do all the right things.”