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Longest tenured Oilers eager for playoff atmosphere

Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, two of the longest-tenured Oilers, are excited to witness post-season atmosphere in Edmonton

by Chris Wescott / EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer

Jordan Eberle was being interviewed in-arena following Edmonton's playoff-clinching win over the Los Angeles Kings on March 28.

Before giving his first answer, the winger - and longest tenured Oilers player - gazed up into the crowd, which was showering him with their deafening support.

Video: POST-GAME RAW | Eberle Walk-Off

"Soak it up," Oilers TV reporter Tom Gazzola told Eberle.

And he did just that.

PLAYOFF HQ

You could hardly hear yourself think that night as a decade of emotions and loyalty from the Oilers fan base bubbled to the surface. The Oilers had made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Clinching that night meant a lot to Eberle, and a lot to the City. But fast forward to Tuesday - the Oilers first team practice of the post-season - and those emotions have been replaced with a business-like attitude and approach.

"I think (the emotion) has kind of passed," said Eberle. "That excitement as far as making it is kind of over with. I think it's now excitement to get going and to do well."

Eberle has played 507 games in the NHL and all have come with the Oilers. No season, until now, has contained a post-season berth. The winger has spoken with former teammates like Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky - members of the 2006 playoff team - and knows what to expect come Game 1 Wednesday night.

"They talked about how crazy the crowd was and how great the atmosphere was," said Eberle. "It has always been a goal to bring that back and I think we have. I think coming out Game 1, it will be fun."

Walking around the city of Edmonton, Oilers players are getting a taste of post-season atmosphere. Flags hang from apartment balconies or from the windows of passing cars. Jerseys are the new fashion trend on a random afternoon at a local restaurant. Fans are more eager than ever to talk hockey.

"It's definitely more so than usual. The fans are excited," said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has played all 395 of his career games for Edmonton. "It's been a long time for them since the Oilers have been in the playoffs. They've stuck by us the whole way through. Now they're finally starting to see some reward here. It's definitely an exciting time for us as players but also the whole city."

"I think just being around town and talking to people, there is an excitement level and they're ready to get going," said Eberle. "I've never felt there in the seven years I've been here. You can feel the excitement."

March 28 was a taste of a playoff atmosphere at Rogers Place. The thundering adulations of the orange and blue faithful gave a glimpse into what happens to this ravenous fanbase when the post-season rolls around. Really, the last few weeks of the season have contained that excitement level. The Oilers rewarded the boisterous bunch with nine wins in a row in their home barn.

"It's gotten louder," said Eberle.

"Obviously, the clinch game was pretty cool and that was definitely the best atmosphere I've been a part of here," said Nugent-Hopkins.

Two of the longest active serving members of the club get their first taste of post-season hockey on Wednesday night, and it couldn't come soon enough.

"I've heard amazing things about this city when the playoffs start," said Eberle. "I'm just excited to get it going."

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