Oilers not fazed by lack of experience heading into Game 7 against Kings


EDMONTON — It has been 32 years since the Edmonton Oilers hosted a Game 7, and five years since they played in one.

The Los Angeles Kings have not played a Game 7 since playing three in 2014, but their current goalie and two of their forwards played in all of them. In fact, six members of the Kings have played in at least three Game 7s, while the Oilers have two players who have played in more than three.

So when the two teams play Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS, BSSC), the Kings will have the experience factor. 

The Oilers, however, are not concerned. 

“Experience is what it is,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said Friday. “I think if you’ve been around, you’ve been through situations, different ones in your career, it can only pay dividends in the hard moments. So I think it’s one game, anything can happen, you just got to make sure you try to bring your A-game and put it all out there.” 

[RELATED: Complete Oilers vs Kings series coverage]

Oilers goalie Mike Smith will be playing in his first Game 7 after having helped the Oilers avoid elimination with 30 saves in 4-2 win in Game 6 on Thursday. 

“It feels a lot better than the other [option], so I think it’s what dreams are made of going to Game 7 back at home in Edmonton, so guys are pretty excited,” Smith said. “It’s an exciting time of year when you’re going to Game 7. You win a tough one on the road and you’re going back to your home rink with your fans. It’s going to be an exciting time and hopefully we’ll rise to the occasion.”

The Oilers have not played a Game 7 since losing 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks in the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Edmonton’s last Game 7 at home was in the 1990 Smythe Division Semifinal against the Winnipeg Jets, winning 4-1. The Oilers, who went on to win their fifth Stanley Cup title that season, are 6-4 in Game 7, and 3-1 at home. 

Defenseman Duncan Keith has played in five Game 7s, all with the Chicago Blackhawks. Forward Derrick Brassard has played in eight, but has only played one game in this series. 

The Kings won each of their first three series in seven games in the 2014 playoffs before defeating the New York Rangers in five games in the Stanley Cup Final.

Forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, and goalie Jonathan Quick are the only active players remaining from the 2014 championship team. Defenseman Drew Doughty was also on the team, but is out for the season with a wrist injury. Each of them are 4-0 in Game 7.

“It’s fun, it’s exciting, obviously, it’s something not a lot of us in there have ever gone through,” Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “So again, we got the leaders who have been here before so, as everyone’s been saying, we’re going to keep leaning on them. They’ll be able to kind of get us prepared as much as they can, keep everything loose, and try and keep everyone ready to go. But it’s exciting for sure.”

Quick has won each of his previous Game 7 starts (4-0, 1.95 GAA, .940 SV%). 

“Yeah, Game 7, it’s a great opportunity,” Kings forward Trevor Moore said. “We just need to have a good start; no feeling it out early, you just got to get in there and impose your will right off the puck drop.”

Moore played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 in the first round against the Boston Bruins in 2019, losing 5-1 at TD Garden. He has five points (two goals, three assists) in the first six games in the series against the Oilers. 

“You’re nervous, but also it’s such a cool opportunity,” Moore said. “You think about growing up watching playoffs and Game 7s, so we’re all grateful for this opportunity. We’re looking forward to it. In that series, [the Bruins] had a better start than we did, and it ended up costing us then, so we’ll have to have a good start and push them out.”  

Oilers captain Connor McDavid, forwards Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zack Kassian, and defensemen Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell all played in the Game 7 loss to the Ducks in 2017. Kings coach Todd McLellan was the Oilers coach at the time. 

Nurse will return for Game 7 after serving a one-game suspension in Game 6 for head-butting Kings forward Phillip Danault in Game 5 in Edmonton.

“The way I look at it, is we had a certain mindset heading into Game No. 6, and we’re going to need to build on it,” Woodcroft said. “We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish yesterday, but our focus is on finding a win tomorrow night. And to do that, we’re going to need everybody focused, we’re going to need everybody playing towards our game plan. 

“And we’re excited about the opportunity of what tomorrow night represents.”

NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell and independent correspondent Dan Greenspan contributed to this report 

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