Pickard’s play continues to be solid after emerging as Oilers’ backup goaltender

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When Leon Draisaitl scored an overtime goal against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place on Tuesday night, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Calvin Pickard was credited with his 10th win of the season after delivering a 23-save performance.

The win was also Pickard’s third in his last four starts where his numbers have been impressive.

“(I) want to play good each and every night,” Pickard told reporters after practice in Edmonton on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to do what I can for this team.

“It’s been good so far, but there’s a lot of hockey left — a lot of good opportunities still to come.”

The 31-year-old goaltender has played a total of 131 NHL games in his career with the Oilers, the Red Wings, the Coyotes, the Flyers, the Maple Leafs and the Avalanche. In 15 games with the Oilers this season, Pickard has a 10-4-0 record and boasts a goals-against average of 2.25 and a .919 save percentage.

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“Goaltending’s so important, and when you don’t have it, then a lot of problems arise,” Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said when asked Wednesday about Pickard’s play.

“We’re very fortunate to have two goalies that have played really well for us.”

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Pickard signed with the Oilers in the summer of 2022 to provide the team with depth at the goaltending position. That same summer, the club signed Jack Campbell to a long-term contract with many expecting him to seize the starting netminder role.

After a dismal start to the 2023-24 season for the Oilers, which saw Campbell and fellow goaltender Stuart Skinner struggle as well, Campbell was assigned to the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate in November and Pickard was brought to Alberta’s capital to back up Skinner.

“For a backup goalie, his starts are limited and it’s sometimes more difficult because you don’t know when your next start is,” Knoblauch acknowledged. “And you might have a good game (and then) you might have to wait another 10 days for your next game.

“He’s handled it very well. And he’s been prepared to play every single game.”

Pickard said he has adjusted to playing in the NHL again and to getting used to his teammates.

“I’m way more comfortable than when I first got here,” he acknowledged.

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Edmonton Oilers goaltender Calvin Pickard speaks to reporters at Rogers Place on March 20, 2024. Global News

Oilers face off against Sabres Thursday night

The Oilers will host the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Place on Thursday night.

Edmonton (41-21-4) currently occupies second place in the NHL’s Pacific Division and is comfortably in a playoff spot at the moment while Buffalo (33-32-5) is still in the hunt for a wild card spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference Playoff race.

The Oilers are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games while the Sabres are 5-4-1.

Thursday night’s game is the last of a four-game homestand for the Oilers.

The game against the Sabres begins at 7 p.m. local time. You can listen to the game live on 630 CHED.

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