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Edmonton Oilers’ roster shakeup pays off as Perry sparks team in Game 4 victory

The morning before Game 4 of the Western Conference final, veteran Edmonton Oilers forward Corey Perry was informed that his five-game exile to the press box was ending.

For a player of Perry’s playoff pedigree — a former Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion – not playing during the most important time of the year wasn’t an easy thing to accept.

But that was the price he needed to pay for going pointless through the Oilers’ first 10 games of the playoffs. Perry was a healthy scratch for Games 6 and 7 of the Oilers’ Western Conference semifinal triumph over the Vancouver Canucks and the first three games of this series with the Dallas Stars.

“It’s tough. I’ve played a lot of games in this league,” Perry said. “But it’s like I said earlier when I got here, you check your ego at the door and you just plug away and you work hard off the ice. You have to be ready when your name is called.

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“I’ll do anything to win.”

He made the most of his return on Wednesday night.

Coach Kris Knoblauch paired Perry and fellow scratch Ryan McLeod on the second line with Leon Draisaitl — and the move paid off, despite the panic it caused on Edmonton sports radio and social media in the hours leading up to puck drop.

Down 2-0 before the Oilers had even registered a shot on goal, Perry drove the Dallas net and created a juicy rebound for McLeod to slam home.

That goal gave the Oilers the jolt they needed to defeat the Stars 5-2 and even the series at two games apiece heading into Game 5 in Dallas on Friday.

“When you do get pulled out of the lineup, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Perry. “But you put that aside and when you get your name called again and come in, you just work hard.

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“I can talk for myself and for Clouder (McLeod). It’s about being hard on the puck and winning our battles. That’s all we’re trying to do.”

Perry now has 53 goals and 72 assists in 207 career playoff games with the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.

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The Oilers signed the 39-year-old, a player general manager Ken Holland previously tried to bring to Edmonton, to a US$775,000 deal in January. The Chicago Blackhawks terminated Perry’s contract in November, stating he violated his standard player contract and team policies intended to promote a safe work environment.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers sign veteran forward Corey Perry'

Edmonton Oilers sign veteran forward Corey Perry

Perry received mental-health counselling before signing with the Oilers, and the move got the blessing of Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson.

Through his years with division-rival Anaheim, Perry became a player Oilers fans loved to hate. In Game 4, they saw the Perry who had once tormented them; crashing the net, winning battles and being a general pain in the you-know-what. He was his vintage self.

Knoblauch praised Perry’s play – and how he handled having to watch the games rather than playing them.

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“First of all, Corey was great tonight,” Knoblauch said after Game 4. “I thought he played really well, what we wanted. I think Corey is very consistent in his game. He played tonight a lot like he was playing before.”

So why did Knoblauch remove Perry in the first place? He said it was because of matchups, and looking at who else in the Oilers lineup was playing well.

“How he played tonight, that’s what we were expecting,” he said. “We loved it. I liked his puck play, he was good, composed on the wall.”

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This is Perry’s 16th playoff campaign. When the veteran wasn’t playing, he was acting as another member of the coaching staff.

“He’s a great mentor for our younger guys, even our older guys,” Knoblauch said. “Just settling things down and being positive. He’s great to have on our team, whether he’s dressed or not.”

Draisaitl, second in the NHL playoff scoring race with 26 points in 16 games, praised Perry’s demeanour.

“He’s obviously a very smart player,” said Draisaitl. “He’s got God knows how many playoff games under his belt.”

Knoblauch also put Philip Broberg, a defenceman who had played just 12 NHL games this season, into the lineup. All three major changes paid off.

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“I thought all the guys coming in, which is not easy to do at this time of year, did a great job tonight,” said Draisaitl.

Benching Perry clearly had an impact on the Oilers as they came back from a 3-2 deficit and won the series against the Canucks. Now, Perry just may be a wild card for the remainder of the Western Conference Final.

Game 5 is Friday in Dallas. You can listen to the game live on 630 CHED, beginning with The Faceoff Show at 4:30 p.m. MT. The actual game starts at 6:30 p.m. MT.

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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