EDM wont change approach GM7 tune in

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Knoblauch wants to keep things in perspective heading into the biggest hockey game of his career.

The Edmonton Oilers coach wants his team to approach Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC) as it would any other game and not let the moment become overwhelming.

“I don’t think our approach has changed at all,” Knoblauch said Monday morning. “Ten days ago, we talked about when we were down three games to zero about one day at a time, enjoy the process. We’re enjoying the process, we’re enjoying where we are right now, we have a confident group and we’re just going to play this game like any other one.”

Falling behind 3-0 in the best-of-7 series, few gave the Oilers a chance to get to this point, a winner-take-all game for the Stanley Cup. Edmonton believed it could climb out of the hole when no one else did.

Going into Game 7, the Oilers are keeping the same mindset that helped them get past five elimination games to this point.

“I think in our minds and in our locker room we’re going to approach it the same way,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “I think that’s what makes us successful, taking it step by step, not getting too far ahead of ourselves.

“At the end of the day, the sun is going to come up tomorrow. It’s a big game, we all want to win it, there’s no question about it. But there is going to be a team losing tonight regardless of how the game goes.”

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Edmonton’s small-picture approach is what helped turn its season around after a 2-9-1 start and a drop to the bottom of the NHL standings. Focusing on the next game helped the Oilers battle back from a 3-2 series deficit against the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Second Round, winning the final two games to advance.

“I think in my mind, you play better when you’re relaxed and just not too tense,” Ekholm said. “So, again, trying to approach it in a relaxed way and it’s a hockey game. We want to come out on the winning side, but one team’s not going to do that and hopefully they’ll learn from it. We’re just trying to play the way we have the last three games.

“The way this playoff run has gone, we’ve had so many tough tests when it comes to Game 7s earlier or all these elimination games, we’ve always risen to the occasion. We’re all leaning on that experience as a group, and I really love the mindset we have in our locker room with that.”

That approach helped Edmonton battle back against Florida, which had three previous swings at closing out the series and win its first Stanley Cup championship.

“It’s our sixth elimination game, so we’re used to being in this position,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman said. “It’s the first time we have the ability to win, which is an amazing opportunity. But all those games you play as if it’s a Game 7, because it’s your last game of the season. So, just treat it the same way.”

Playing from the edge seems to create a comfortable feeling for the Oilers. They defeated the Canucks 5-1 in Game 6 in one of their most dominating performances to that point and took a 3-0 lead in Game 7 before holding on for a 3-2 victory.

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Facing elimination against the Panthers in Game 4 of the Cup Final, the Oilers won 8-1. They dragged the series back to Edmonton with a 5-3 win in Game 5 at Florida, then pushed it to the limit with a convincing 5-1 win in Game 6 at Rogers Place.

“We had an actual Game 7 against Vancouver where someone was going home,” Hyman said. “We’ve had experience in these moments and obviously today is another animal, but you’d like to think your experience will help you in those moments.”

If the Oilers manage to complete the comeback, they would become just the second team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the Cup Final to win the championship, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who did it against the Detroit Red Wings.

They would also become the first Canadian-based team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings.

“As a Canadian hockey fan, one of my earliest memories is thinking about the Cup as a hockey player,” said Hyman, a Toronto native. “So, I think it’s embedded in our culture and who we are, almost all young hockey fans will grow up and usually one of their first hockey memories will be dreaming about winning a Stanley Cup.

“It’s very much embedded in Canadian culture and it’s how I grew up, so it would mean a lot to all Canadians, regardless of if you’re an Edmonton Oilers fan or not, especially the way this series has gone. I think we’ve roped a lot of people into believing in us and making it a good story, and everybody likes a good story. Yeah, I hope we have all kinds of support. I think I know we do and we feel it and it’s a special opportunity we have.”

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