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Oilers ready to 'make our own history' in Game 7 against Ducks

Edmonton not concerned with limited experience compared to Anaheim in winner-take-all situation

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- When the Edmonton Oilers play Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday, they will take limited winner-take-all experience with them.

Edmonton's Game 6 lineup has a combined 19 games of Game 7 experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with almost half belonging to left wing Milan Lucic (nine).

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said Monday anything that has or hasn't happened with his players in the past won't matter Wednesday.

"We get to make our own history. We don't have to rely on another team's," said McLellan, who is 1-2 in Game 7 in his NHL career. "Our team hasn't experienced it. It's been [11] years since we've been in the playoffs, so there's not a single individual that's played together with anybody here that's gone through Game 7."

McLellan suggested the Oilers would be fine if their number of individual Game 7 experience were zero.


[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Oilers series coverage]


"We'll draw on experience if there's moments during the game," he said. "Milan will have a feeling that, 'Hey, I've been through this before,' and he may mention things. But if you think any of us are standing up on a soap box and telling the inexperienced people, 'Hey, I've been here before, listen to me,' it doesn't happen that way.

"It's going to be another great opportunity for us to grow and gain experience as an organization and individually for players. A lot of players and coaches have their own past histories with Game 7 but you can't really introduce that to the group. It's about what's happening within that little culture we have going in the locker room. You can't bring in the outside."

Experience also doesn't guarantee success. Players who made up Anaheim's Game 6 lineup have played in Game 7 a total of 43 times, but forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each is 1-5. The Ducks have lost in Game 7 four straight times at home, including against the Nashville Predators in the first round last season.

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm6: Oilers erupt for five goals in 1st

"Sometimes it's nice to be naive," said Oilers center Mark Letestu, who won his only Game 7, with the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 Eastern Conference First Round. "Just go in there, kind of be stupid to it. You don't realize what you're in, how important the game is. ... We don't have anything to fall back on."

Letestu said watching Game 7 on TV is more stressful than playing in one.

"I chew my fingernails down to the nubs," he said. "They're so much fun to be a part of, the stress of it, as a fan."

The Oilers were able to force Game 7 with a 7-1 win against the Ducks in Game 6 on Sunday. Defenseman Adam Larsson, who never has played in a Game 7 in the NHL, said the Oilers can't get caught up in the fact it's a make-or-break game.

"I think we have to play like we did [Sunday]," Larsson said. "Either you go out and enjoy it, or you sit back and be nervous. The season could be over. It could have been over last night too. We really don't want that. You can tell yesterday we were a hungry team coming out of the gate. It was fun to be a part of, but it's the same story [Wednesday] too."

Game 6 was a taste of the pressure in elimination games, and the Oilers made a strong statement by scoring five times in the first period and winning big. However, momentum in the series has not carried from game to game. Case in point was Sunday, when the Oilers, coming off a Game 5 double-overtime loss on Friday when they blew a three-goal lead in the final 3:16 of the third period.

"We were involved in a game where our backs were up against the wall and we performed well," McLellan said. "But that doesn't guarantee success Wednesday night. We have to start all over again and we'll go from a comfortable environment to a hostile one, but we've played there, I think our seventh game in this building this year, and we've been able to win there in the past so that has to give us a little bit of confidence."

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm4: McDavid finds twine on broken play

Still, this is new territory for this group of Oilers. The last time Edmonton played a Game 7 was when it lost the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes.

"We don't have a past here," McLellan said. "We don't have a reputation for success or failure or whatever it is. We're starting to build that. It's been a decade. Our past was not even getting the opportunity to do this.

"We're getting to develop our playoff reputation and right now it's one of the ability to come back, a scrappy group, never quit, never die and respond to adversity and that's a pretty good reputation to have."

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