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Oilers’ backup goalie Calvin Pickard confirms he’ll start Game 4 against Canucks

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Journeyman goaltender Calvin Pickard, who just two days ago made his first-ever appearance in an NHL playoff game, will start in goal for the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night as the team faces off against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the series.

“Definitely excited and definitely looking for a win,” Pickard told reporters at Rogers Place on Tuesday morning after confirming he was told a day earlier he would be getting the Game 4 start instead of the team’s usual No. 1 goaltender Stuart Skinner.

“(This is a) good opportunity for us to change the story of the series.”

Edmonton Oilers goalie Calvin Pickard (30) defends the goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. AP Photo/LM Otero

The Oilers face pressure to perform in Game 4 after falling behind 2-1 in the all-Canadian series with a loss to the Canucks on Sunday night. During that game, Skinner was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots and Pickard briefly came on the ice to relieve Skinner in goal.

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“I know I can play at this level,” Pickard said Tuesday. “This year I proved it to myself and everyone around me.

Pickard, a 32-year-old netminder who signed with the Oilers in the summer of 2022, said getting on the ice during a playoff game on Sunday “was good.”

“I didn’t feel too worked up,” he said, noting he had not played in a game in some time.

“Tonight’s a big game for me … excited for the challenge.”

After Sunday’s 4-3 loss, Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch expressed confidence in both Skinner and Pickard.

“Either guy that we choose could get the job done,” he said.

During the regular season, Pickard played in 20 games for the Oilers, finishing with a 12-7-1 record, along with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Pickard signed with the Oilers during the same off-season that the club signed Jack Campbell to a long-term contract with many expecting the latter player to fill the starting netminder role.

After the Oilers’ difficult start to the 2023-24 regular season, which saw Campbell and Skinner struggle, Campbell was assigned to the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate in November and Pickard was brought to Alberta’s capital to back up Skinner.

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“I’m expecting what I’ve seen from Calvin all season — a goaltender who’s competed very hard, played very well for us and piled up a lot of victories,” Knoblauch said Tuesday.

“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 he’s going to be our guy.”

Pickard’s expected adversary in the Canucks’ net on Tuesday night is rookie goaltender Arturs Silovs who continues to impress in Vancouver’s goal while starter Thatcher Demko is sidelined with an injury.

Silovs made 42 saves, including 21 in the third period, in Sunday’s game against the Oilers.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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