edm lak series preview

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs features 16 teams in eight best-of-7 series, which start Saturday. Today, NHL.com previews the Western Conference First Round between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings.

(2P) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3P) Los Angeles Kings

Oilers: 49-27-6, 104 points

Kings: 44-27-11, 99 points

Season series: EDM: 3-1-0, LAK: 1-2-1

Game 1: Monday, 10 p.m. ET (SN, CBC, TVAS, ESPN2)

The Los Angeles Kings are hoping the third time is the charm facing the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference First Round.

Edmonton eliminated Los Angeles the past two seasons, winning the best-of-7 series in six games last season and going the distance in 2022, winning in seven games.

"You don't think about it too much during the year but when it was coming down to crunch time and the way the picture was kind of shaping up, it looked like it was Edmonton," Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. "You're always playoff ready, it's the best time of the year so you're going in, it's a blank page and we start writing on it."

The Oilers won three of the four games of the season series (3-1-0) behind seven points (two goals, five assists) Connor McDavid, who finished third in the NHL in scoring this season with 132 points (32 goals, 100 assists).

Both teams underwent a coaching change this season. Kris Knoblauch replaced Jay Woodcroft on Nov. 12 for the Oilers with the team 3-9-1, and Jim Hiller took over from Todd McLellan on Feb. 2 with the Kings having lost 14 of 17 at that point (3-8-6).

Stuart Skinner will start in goal for the Oilers for the second consecutive postseason. Skinner had an excellent regular season, building off his 2022-23 rookie season when he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. The 25-year-old started all four games against the Kings this regular season and had a 1.99 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.

"The calm and poise that he has in the net, he makes big saves at key moments," Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said. "I think every time you look back there, he's calm and he brings that presence to the team. He's calm and he's been incredible for us all season long and he'll be the same moving on."

Skinner started all 12 playoff games for the Oilers last season but was pulled four times. He finished with a 3.68 GAA and an .883 save percentage, and Edmonton was eliminated in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Oilers expect Skinner to be a lot better this time around.

"He's probably just a little bit more mature," Nurse said. "Being more comfortable as a team and as individuals and that happens as years go on, you get more and more experience, you get more and more comfortable and that's 'Skins' to a T."

The Kings are looking to win a playoff series for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014.

"There's no question we have a short history with [the Oilers], but we were just excited to make the playoffs and go play whoever we were going to play," Hiller said. "We just want to get going and we're really excited."

Game breakers

Oilers: Connor McDavid has accomplished practically everything left to accomplish in the regular season and is on the quest for playoff success. The five-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer and three-time Hart Trophy winner as League MVP had another outstanding season with 132 points (32 goals, 100 assists) in 76 games. McDavid became the fourth player to have at least 100 assists in a season. What has eluded the NHL's most dynamic player is the Stanley Cup.

Kings: Anze Kopitar is the heart and soul of the Kings and has plenty of game left. The 36-year-old had another strong season with 70 points (26 goals, 44 assists) in 81 games. Playing in his 18th NHL season, the two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014) knows how to win and will be crucial to Los Angeles' success in the series. Kopitar is the Kings top center and will likely get a heavy dose of McDavid in the series, particularly in games at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Kopitar can still hold his own with the best in the NHL and if he has a big series, could help Los Angeles get past Edmonton.


Oilers: Stuart Skinner was given the responsibly to be the undisputed starter this season when Jack Campbell was assigned to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Nov. 7, and has made the most of the opportunity. In his second full season, Skinner has gone 36-16-5 with a 2.62 goals against average and .905 save percentage in 59 games (57 starts). Skinner started every playoff game for the Oilers last season and is looking to build on that experience. Backup Calvin Pickard was 12-7-1 with a 2.45 GAA and .909 save percentage in 23 regular-season games (20 starts).

Kings: Cam Talbot rejuvenated his career in Los Angeles and is heading back into the playoffs as a starter. In his first season with the Kings, Talbot played in the NHL All-Star Game and was 27-20-6 with a 2.50 GAA and .913 save percentage in 54 games (52 starts). The Kings will need Talbot to have a strong series against his former team and if he falters, they will turn to David Rittich, who also had a strong season as the backup, going 13-6-3 with a 2.15 GAA and .921 save percentage in 24 games (22 starts).

Numbers to know

Oilers: The Oilers had the fourth-best power play in the NHL this season, converting at 26.3 percent. They scored 64 power-play goals, down from 89 last season when they set an NHL record, going 32.4 percent with the man advantage. The Oilers scored 292 goals this season compared to 325 last year, which is a reflection of their commitment to defense. Edmonton realized run-and-gun hockey is not a method of success in the playoffs, and made a concerted effort to take care of things in their own end first before venturing out on offense.

Kings: Los Angeles had the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, at 84.6 percent. The Kings gave up 39 power-play goals this season, which was tied for third lowest with the Tampa Bay Lightning, behind the New York Rangers (36) and Carolina Hurricanes (35). The Kings also scored 11 shorthanded goals, with forward Adrian Kempe leading the way with three. Special teams are always important in the playoffs and if the Kings can continue to be successful on the penalty kill, it could help determine the outcome of the series.


Oilers: Corey Perry was brought in by Edmonton in large part because of his playoff experience. Perry is a Stanley Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks (2007) and went to three consecutive finals with three different teams (Dallas Stars, 2020; Montreal Canadiens, 2021; Tampa Bay Lightning, 2022). Perry had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 38 games with the Oilers after he had his contract terminated by the Chicago Blackhawks, and was his typical agitating self toward opponents. The Oilers hope the 38-year-old forward can be a factor in a long playoff run this postseason.

Kings: Quinton Byfield was selected by Los Angeles with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Byfield had a breakout season with 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists) in 80 games. The 21-year-old forward is immensely talented and can dominate with his strength and speed. Edmonton had difficulty containing Byfield this season. He had six points (two goals, four assists) in four games against the Oilers and is expected to be a handful again in the playoffs.

They said it

"We've seen them the last two years, it's always a hard-fought battle. The games are always really tight and really close, and they present a lot of problems for us, as we present a lot of problems for them. It's really just about the team that figures that out the quickest. I think they have a really good [veteran] presence, they know how to win, they know how to stay in games in the playoffs and you saw that both years that we played them." -- Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner

"Yeah, we definitely want to beat them now. I think we owe them, but they're a really good team, they added a lot of really great pieces at the deadline. They're going to be a tough out for sure, but they're a team that we really want to beat." -- Kings forward Quinton Byfield

Will win if…

Oilers: They can play a patient game and not get frustrated by the Kings and their trapping system. The success Edmonton has had against Los Angeles this season and in the previous two playoffs comes from its ability to take care of the puck and not turn it over in the neutral zone trying to circumvent the trap. Getting the puck in behind the Kings defense and cycling it in the corner will be key to the Oilers success. If they can do the little things well, take care of the puck and stay out of the penalty box, they should be able to get past the Kings for a third consecutive time in the first round.

Kings: They can grind the game down to a slog and stifle Edmonton's speed through the neutral zone. The Kings make opponents work for every inch of space on their own side of the ice and expect to do the same against the Oilers. Los Angeles will get its chances off the rush through turnovers in the neutral zone and needs to make the most of them. Talbot will need to be very good, and the penalty kill needs to continue its success into the playoffs. Los Angeles cannot afford to spend too much time in the penalty box; Edmonton's power play features two of the best offensive players in the game in McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, along with a 54-goal scorer in Zach Hyman.

How they look

Oilers projected lineup

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

Adam Henrique -- Leon Draisaitl -- Warren Foegele

Evander Kane -- Ryan McLeod -- Corey Perry

Ryan Holloway -- Mattias Janmark -- Connor Brown

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Cody Ceci

Brett Kulak -- Vincent Desharnais

Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Sam Carrick, Troy Stecher, Derek Ryan, Philip Broberg

Injured: None

Kings projected lineup

Quinton Byfield -- Anze Kopitar -- Adrian Kempe

Trevor Moore -- Phillip Danault -- Kevin Fiala

Viktor Arvidsson -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Alex Laferriere

Arthur Kaliyev -- Blake Lizotte -- Trevor Lewis

Mikey Anderson -- Drew Doughty

Vladislav Gavrikov -- Matt Roy

Andreas Englund -- Jordan Spence

Cam Talbot

David Rittich

Scratched: Jacob Moverare, Alex Turcotte

Injured: Carl Grundstrom (lower body)