The Edmonton Oilers will be back home for game three of the NHL’s Western Conference Final Saturday night and keen to show their fans that they can overcome the Colorado Avalanche (630 CHED, Face-off Show 4 p.m., game at 6 p.m.).
“I think we haven’t shown our best yet,” said Leon Draisaitl. “We have to make sure it’s coming soon.”
The Avalanche lead the series 2-0. The Oilers fell behind and were beaten 8-6 in game one. The Avs dominated game two and won 4-0.
It looks bleak for the Oilers, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins believes the team knows how to recover. He looks back to the stretch from December 3 to January 20 when the Oilers recorded only two wins in 15 games.
“We had COVID stuff going on. We had a ton of injuries. We were out of a playoff spot. We found a way to battle back, to stay resilient as a full group, and push ourselves into a playoff spot,” said Nugent-Hopkins.
“We’re excited here. It’s obviously not the position we wanted to be in, but at at the same time we have an opportunity to head home and start rolling here.”
The Oilers will have to commit fewer turnovers to counteract the Avs speedy attack.
“You have to gain lines. You have to make sure it goes all the way. You can’t have those little turnovers, even tops of the circles. They turn it around and come right back at you,” explained Draisaitl.
Draisaitl and Connor McDavid played on different lines for most of game two. Head coach Jay Woodcroft wouldn’t commit to reuniting them for the start of game three.
“I think we’ve maintained a level of flexibility over the last three-and-a-half months that makes us hard to predict and allows us to make necessary adjustments,” said Woodcroft.
The NHL fined Zack Kassian $2500 for unsportsmanlike conduct. During the third period of game two, Kassian was sitting on the bench when he grabbed Colorado defenceman Bowen Byram.