3 Keys EDM-DAL game 1

(2P) Oilers at (1C) Stars

Western Conference Final, Game 1

8:30 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TNT, SN, TVAS, CBC

DALLAS -- The Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars open the best-of-7 Western Conference Final at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

The Stars (52-21-9) finished first in the Central Division and defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games in the Western Conference First Round and the Colorado Avalanche in six games in the second round. This is the second straight season Dallas has reached the conference final; last season, they lost in six games to the Golden Knights, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

“I think when we were playing those games against Vegas last year, it was more of a, hope we can win, hope everything goes right and we can win,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said Thursday. “I think that’s the difference this year, I don’t think we’re hoping we can win; we believe and feel we should win every night.”

The Oilers (49-27-6) were second in the Pacific Division; they defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first round and the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the second round.

Edmonton is playing in its second conference final in three years; it was swept by Colorado in this round in 2022.

“We’re definitely a little more experienced, we’re a little more comfortable," Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Thursday, "but we know we’re going up against a very good hockey team. It’s going to take a lot of work and we’re excited for the opportunity to push them every night and we’ll see what happens.”

Here are 3 keys for Game 1:

1. No Hintz for openers

Dallas will be without first-line center Roope Hintz for Game 1; he will miss his third straight game this postseason with an upper-body injury and is day to day, according to DeBoer.

“He’s getting closer,” DeBoer said. “He skated yesterday, he’s skating today. I’m hopeful for Game 2.”

Hintz has six points (two goals, four assists) in 11 playoff games; he was injured in Game 4 against the Avalanche and did not play in Games 5 or 6. He was tied for third for Dallas with 65 points (30 goals, 35 assists) in 80 games during the regular season.

2. Who's more special?

Edmonton boasts the best special teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Its power play (37.5 percent) and penalty kill (91.4 percent) each lead the NHL.

The Oilers were 6-for-20 (30.0 percent) on the power play against the Canucks in the second round and the series-winning goal by Nugent-Hopkins in Game 7 was scored with the man-advantage.

“We know what they’re looking for and you just try to anticipate,” Stars goalie Jake Oettinger said. “We have to do a job defensively. Our penalty kill can be a lot better and it starts tonight.”

Dallas, the least penalized team of the four teams remaining in the playoffs, has given up eight power-play goals on 26 opportunities (69.2 percent).

3. Gold in goal

Oettinger left practice early Wednesday, but will start Game 1 for the Stars. He has played every minute in the playoffs so far for Dallas and is 8-5 with a 2.09 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage.

“I feel good,” Oettinger said. “Obviously we’re happy to give ourselves a little bit of a rest, we earned that, and now it’s up to us to take advantage of that.”

Stuart Skinner will start for the Oilers; he's 7-3 with a 2.87 GAA and .881 save percentage in 10 starts this postseason. He was pulled for the third period in Game 3 of the second round against the Canucks, a 4-3 loss, and did not play Games 4 and 5 of that series, replaced by Calvin Pickard.

Skinner was back in goal for Games 6 and 7 against Vancouver and helped Edmonton overcome a 3-2 series deficit to win in seven games.

“I think Stu would have found his game whether we continue to play him or gave him that reset,” Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said. “From my time watching Stu here in Edmonton, he’s been pretty darn good. He’s been a solid goaltender and almost elite goaltender. I think we have a lot of confidence in him and expect him to play well.”

Oilers projected lineup

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Connor McDavid -- Zach Hyman

Dylan Holloway -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Warren Foegele -- Ryan McLeod -- Derek Ryan

Mattias Janmark -- Sam Carrick -- Connor Brown

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Vincent Desharnais

Brett Kulak -- Cody Ceci

Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Corey Perry, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body)

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Wyatt Johnston -- Logan Stankoven

Jamie Benn -- Joe Pavelski — Evgenii Dadonov

Mason Marchment -- Tyler Seguin -- Matt Duchene

Craig Smith -- Radek Faksa -- Sam Steel

Thomas Harley -- Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell -- Chris Tanev

Ryan Suter -- Nils Lundkvist

Jake Oettinger

Scott Wedgewood

Scratched: Ty Dellandrea

Injured: Jani Hakanpaa (lower body), Roope Hintz (upper body)

Status report

The Oilers will dress the same lineup they used in a 3-2 win at the Canucks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round on Monday.

NHL.com independent correspondent Taylor Baird contributed to this report