The Edmonton Oilers will play a hockey game tonight for the first time since mid-March. It won’t count, it’s the team’s lone exhibition tilt prior to the start of the Qualification Round on August 1st, but it will be a sight for sore eyes. For head coach Dave Tippett, it is a valuable chance for his team to “get up to speed” ahead of their best-of-five series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We’re trying to get our mind in the right place,” Tippett said when asked about how he wants his team to approach the tilt. “We’ve talked about building towards game one right from the start of this camp, and there’s certain things you do to click your mind in, to get going. We’ve got a lot of scrimmage time, but you get into a game, you’ve gotta get thinking right. You gotta, summer hockey has gotta get out of you, you gotta get up to speed in a hurry.”
In terms of specific areas the coach wants to highlight, decision making and making the right plays were right at the top. It’s those two things, along with pace, that have been hallmarks of Tippett’s short tenure in Edmonton to this point.
“Just doing little things right, make sure we’re playing the right way and focus on getting better (Tuesday). Those will be our goals going into the game,” Tippett continued. “I wish we probably had two exhibition games, but we’ve done lots of scrimmaging just to get your mind into the right place so when Game 1 comes you understand what’s at stake and the pace you’re going to have to play at.”
Things won’t be the same on Tuesday as they were in March. Instead of 18 skaters, each team will be permitted to dress 20 skaters in order to get more players game action. Of course, there will be no fans in attendance, either.
The league has made adjustments to Rogers Place to help eradicate that empty building feeling. In addition to numerous game presentation quirks that each team will bring, the lower bowl has been completely transformed.
“I’m interested to see how the players react,” Tippett said when asked about the unusual atmosphere. “I’ve been out in the bowl and looked at it. It looks really, I’m interested to see how it comes out on TV also but it looks very different than just an empty arena.”