Arizona Coyotes v Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB – Goaltender Calvin Pickard will make his first-career start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night when the Edmonton Oilers try to even up their second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 at Rogers Place.

“All you can ask for is an opportunity in the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Pickard said, describing his excitement after Tuesday's pre-game skate. "I felt like I had a good season and the preparation is done. I’m excited to get out there.”

Pickard starts as the Oilers look to even series with Vancouver

Pickard made his first playoff appearance in the final period of Edmonton’s 4-3 defeat to Vancouver in Game 3 on Sunday after Stuart Skinner was relieved following four goals allowed on 15 shots, leading to Pickard coming in and making three saves.

It was the first appearance for Pickard since Apr. 12 in the final game of the regular season for the Oilers, which also came in relief when he made 13 saves on 14 shots against the Avalanche.

Head Coach Kris Knoblauch confirmed after Tuesday morning’s full pre-game skate that ‘Picks’ would be given the start for Game 4, marking his first start in nearly a full month (Apr. 17 at Arizona) and a major show of confidence by the coaching staff in going with the 32-year-old for this pivotal game with the Oilers trailing 2-1 in the series.

For the bench boss, he expects nothing less than what Calvin’s provided all season as a steady presence between the pipes, a guy who’s good in the dressing room, and a goaltender who can perform well despite going long stretches without playing.

“What I've seen from Calvin all season is a goaltender that’s competed very hard, played very well for us and piled up a lot of victories,” Knoblauch said. “It's not an ideal situation. He hasn't been playing for a long time, but he's gone long stretches without playing and I think the team has a lot of confidence in Calvin when he has played and been our guy.”

Calvin chats with the media ahead of Game 4

Defenceman Darnell Nurse affirmed his coach’s thoughts that the players’ trust in Pickard couldn’t be higher.

“A ton of faith,” Nurse said. “I think our whole group has a ton of faith in him with the work and compete that he brings. He's one of the favourites in here and just a genuinely good guy. He's always out there competing, and he's played so well for us all year long.”

Pickard turned in a solid season with a 12-7-1 record, a 2.25 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 23 appearances (20 starts) this season after ascending from the AHL's Bakersfield Condors in November and making his first start in a 5-3 loss to the Panthers on Nov. 20 in Sunrise, FL.

The Moncton, NB-born goalie who was raised in Winnipeg said it's taken a lot of belief in his ability to play at this level to for him to foster the mental fortitude that's allowed him to work his way back up the ranks and earn this opportunity tonight in Game 4 with his team needing strong goaltending facing a 2-1 deficit in the series.

"Just believing over the last five, six, seven years since I've been in the NHL consistently," Pickard said. "I know I can play at this level and this year, I proved it to myself and everybody around me. It's a really good opportunity for me tonight and I feel that I'm ready."

Pickard has helped prove himself and prepare for this moment through plenty of practice time, where his dedication toward being ready at a moment’s notice has allowed him to embrace playing without pressure and arrive ready for his opportunity tonight at Rogers Place.

“I've said it all year. Practice is huge for me,” he said. “I'm surrounded by really good people. [Goaltending Coach Dustin Schwartz] and Skins have been really good for me; a lot of little things in practice every single day. And I'll say it again, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I'm fighting for my life every game.

“I'm at a point in my career where worrying about other stuff isn't going to do me any favours. I've been saying it all year that I'm not putting too much pressure on myself, and tonight's no different.

I’m definitely excited and looking for a win.”

Kris addresses the media & announces the starting goaltender


After Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were paired together on the top line with Zach Hyman for the last two games, the two primary offensive drivers for the Oilers are set to begin tonight centring their own lines, Coach Knoblauch said.

"I think tonight it's going start like that and we can go back and forth throughout the game depending on how the flow is and how everything's playing out," he said.

The decision to split the Dynamic Duo is being debated along with the Oilers potentially running 11 forwards and seven defencemen in Game 4, with forward Adam Henrique being confirmed as out for the second straight game. That void looks set to be filled by Dylan Holloway, who took line rushes on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane.

"Dylan's played really well," Knoblauch said. "He had the two goals of the previous series. There have been games where maybe his ice time hasn't been what it should have been, but I think he's warranted more. The biggest thing for him is that his puck play has been really good, and he hasn't been turning pucks over. Also, he's been difficult to play against with his speed, tenacity and physicality. There's a lot to like about his game.

"We're talking about secondary scoring and Dylan has the capability of scoring, whether it's driving the net, getting a rebound or scoring with a shot. We saw the last series two really nice quick releases, and hopefully, he can give us something tonight."

Zach talks with the media ahead of Game 4 against Vancouver

Defenceman Philip Broberg is in contention for a lineup spot tonight after Knoblauch said the Swede is an option if the Oilers decide to go with an 11-and-7 configuration. Knoblauch mentioned that 11-and-7 can lead to more chances to double shift McDavid and Draisaitl with different lines, but the tradeoff comes in messing with the flow of your defencemen as they cycle through different partners.

"That has something to do with it. I think it takes away a little bit of the flow and rhythm, especially with the defencemen in situations where you're not always going out there regularly with your partner," he said. "But on the flip side of it, offensively with the forwards, it is a lot easier to double shift at 97 or 29 and have them back out on the ice right away with another line. So there are pros and cons to it."

Leon Drasiaitl, Evander Kane and Mattias Ekholm all didn't practice on Tuesday, but their absences were confirmed as maintenance by the bench boss.