ANAHEIM, CA - The Oilers play their first Game 7 since the 2006 Stanley Cup Final tonight at Honda Center in Anaheim. But as Oilers head coach Todd Mclellan pointed out, for his squad there's not a lot of difference between tonight's Game 7 and Sunday's Game 6.
"Game 6 was Game 7 for us," McLellan said. "There's no difference. Of course, the series ends tonight but the series was going to end in Game 6 if we didn't play well. There's always elimination games. To me, those are Game 7s as well. We've played in one now."
The Oilers don't have a lot of experience in Game 7 that they can draw on. McLellan himself has coached three of them prior to tonight, winning one and losing two. Milan Lucic has played in nine, winning four.
Lucic agreed with the coach when it came to how the team should prepare for this pivotal contest.
"The mindset has to be the same as last game," Lucic stated. "Backs against the wall and you've got to go out and leave it all out there. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of Game 7s and it definitely doesn't help the stress levels of family and friends but it's a fun experience, fun game to be a part of. You want to have the mentality of no regrets and bring your best game to today."
McLellan added that while he and Lucic do bring some Game 7 experience, it's different this time around because it's a different group. And that's the case with all Game 7s.
"My experience, Milan Lucic's experience, anybody else who's played in a seven-game series has come from a different environment, different uniforms. There isn't anybody staying up saying 'this is what we did against Detroit seven years ago' it doesn't matter," McLellan noted.
A common theme for both head coaches today was that a fast start was needed by their respective club. Fast starts historically have been key in seventh games. The team that scores first is 124-42 all-time (.747), including winning all five Game 7s in 2016.
Randy Carlyle was asked what a key for his team was in tonight's game and he jokingly said not to get scored on in the first 30 seconds.
"We have to have a much better start than we did in our last one," Carlyle continued, adding he didn't expect what happened in Game 6 to affect much of tonight. "If anybody can predict the momentum flows that have taken place in this series you're a lot smarter than a lot of so-called hockey people."
McLellan added that getting the message across about a good start and actually having one are two different things.
"It's never easy. That start in Edmonton the other night wasn't an easy task by any means. We know that Anaheim will be prepared. They're playing at home, they're a veteran team, they have experience and composure and they'll give us a better battle right off the bat.
"You've got to try to swing momentum our way."
Oscar Klefbom did not play Game 6 but will suit up in Game 7 for the Oilers.
"I'm 100% (ready) to go tonight," said Klefbom, adding he's excited for the chance to play in his first career Game 7.
"This is what you dream of growing up. It's going to be a lot of fun. Especially the way the guys played last game, it gave myself and a lot of guys a lot of confidence and energy so I'm looking forward to tonight."
Andrej Sekera did not make the trip to Anaheim.
On the Ducks side, Carlyle said Nate Thompson was good to go but Bieksa will be a game-time decision at best.
"Until our doctors clear him medically, he won't be available but that's not to say that can't happen by 2:00 this afternoon so he could be an option," Carlyle noted.
The Ducks bench boss added that injuries are expected this time of year.
"Injuries are a part of playoff hockey. There's more bumps and bruises hidden beneath the series that you know about, on both sides. Let's not kid ourselves."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (7-5) at DUCKS (7-3)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
A phrase that was heard many times throughout this past season is that the game in question was the "most important game of the year" and whether that was true or not in the build-up to the postseason and through the opening round, it can be agreed without question that tonight's Game 7 at Honda Center holds that title.
After a tough loss in Game 5 in which the Oilers had a 3-0 lead with less than four minutes to play, the team rebounded in a huge way on home ice Sunday night by defeating the Ducks 7-1.
However, much like when the Oilers lost 7-0 to San Jose, the familiar refrain is that no matter how many goals you win or lose by, it still counts as one game.
So here we are in a winner-take-all matchup with the victor going on to play the Nashville Predators.
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
SCORE FIRST: The team that scores first in Game 7 has a 124-42 all-time record (.747 winning percentage) and in 2016, in all five Game 7s the winning team also scored the first goal.
PROTECT THE LEAD: If the Oilers get the lead, they need to duplicate what they did in Game 6 and hold down the throttle. On both sides, multiple goal leads have slipped away (Game 1, Game 3, Game 4, Game 5).
POWER PLAY: Anaheim had the fourth-best penalty kill in the NHL in the regular season but it hasn't been very good in the playoffs, allowing 13 goals on 41 chances (68.3%).
Edmonton:Tyler Pitlick and Andrej Sekera are out. Oscar Klefbom is likely to play.
Anaheim: Nate Thompson is probable. Kevin Bieksa and Ondrej Kase are both questionable. Logan Shaw and Patrick Eaves are doubtful.
This will be the 10th time the Oilers have played a Game 7 in their history, having won six times before (6-3). Of those nine previous times, five have been on the road where the Oilers are 3-2.
Anaheim has played in a Game 7 eight times and have a record of 2-6. Five of those eight have been at home where the Ducks are 1-4. Those four losses in Game 7 have all come with the Ducks holding a 3-2 series lead, losing Game 6 on the road and then losing Game 7 at home. The four losses have also come in each of the last four seasons (DET, LA, CHI, NSH) which could be on the minds of some of the core Ducks players who have been around that long.
John Gibson started Game 7 in 2014 against Los Angeles, allowing four goals on 18 shots before being pulled two minutes into the second period after the Kings had skated out to a 4-0 lead. L.A. ended up winning 6-2.
"We prepare like it's any other day. We have the same order of meetings, the same adjustments and we expect the players to play their best, leave it all on the ice, look up to the scoreboard at the end of the night and believe that it can favour us." -- Oilers head coach Todd McLellan
Best-of-Seven Series Tied 3-3
Apr 26:Edmonton 5 at Anaheim 3 Apr 28:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1 Apr 30:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 3:Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 3 (OT) May 5: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 (2OT) May 7: Anaheim 1 at Edmonton 7 May 10: Edmonton at Anaheim - 8:00 PM MDT
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-2-0
Nov 15: Edmonton 1 at Anaheim 4 Dec 3: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT) Jan 25:Edmonton 4 at Anaheim 0 Mar 22: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 Apr 1: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT)
In 2006, Edmonton defeated Anaheim 4 games to 1 in the only playoff match-up ever between the two teams
May 19:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 21:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 23: Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 5 May 25:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 27:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1