In just a few hours, the Edmonton Oilers will play their first playoff game since May of 2017. In the three plus years since that game, a lot has changed. Some things, like a number of the players on the roster, have not. Forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins remain.
Five of the six defensemen expected to play today, Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom, Kris Russell and Matt Benning, also were on that 2017 team.
It’s a different situation, but this Oilers team does have some playoff experience. There is some ‘seasoning’ for this young group. Those who haven’t been in the moment? No need to fear. The club’s veteran leaders will be there to answer all of the questions and lead by example.
“Yeah, I think I’ve been in some different situations so I can draw on those experiences,” Russell told reporters on Thursday. “I think we got a good group though. We’ve got some good veteran guys. Guys like Nealer (James Neal), whose been in the Stanley Cup Final a few times. So we’ve got a few veteran guys I think guys are gonna look up to and ask questions, and I think that’s a big part of our group.
“Guys aren’t shy to do that and we are a close-knit group. Guys are very comfortable if they have some questions or if they need some help with some situations come playoff time.”
Even the group’s young core, highlighted by McDavid and Draisaitl, has playoff experience to lean on during what they hope will be a long run.
“It’s obviously a little bit of a different setup,” Draisaitl said on Thursday. “I think being in that first time being in the playoffs, that run in 2017, you learn a lot, you take a lot of things out of it that work, that don’t work.
“These two guys (Kris Russell and Adam Larsson) obviously have a little more experience, but I think at the end of the day you still kind of have to play your game and take what worked for you and take that out of it and try and implement that into this playoff.”
For Draisaitl, he has a lot that worked for him in 2017. He had 16 points (6 g, 10 a) in 13 playoff games in 2017. That included a playoff hat-trick against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of their second round series.