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Oilers expect Stars to push back in Game 6 of Western Conference final

In Friday’s Western Conference final Game 5 win in Dallas, the Edmonton Oilers played probably their most complete game of the entire season.

They held the Stars to just 10 shots through the first two periods and won 3-1. It never looked like the game was in jeopardy.

With the chance to close to set a date with the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup final, Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch believes his team will have to step up their efforts even more. What was good enough Friday in Dallas won’t be good enough in Game 6.

“I expect their best,” said Knoblauch of the Stars ahead of Sunday’s Game 6 at Rogers Place. “We’ve seen it at times during the series. I think we got a lot of praises from the last game, how well we played. But, I watched that again, and I feel it could have went either way.

“As good as we were last game, it’s probably not good enough to beat Dallas in an elimination game. Our team has got to be even better than we were in our last two games.”

The Oilers were down 3-2 to Vancouver in the previous round, and then played two dominant games with their season on the brink. So, they know from recent experience what sort of desperation the Stars are feeling.

“Any time your season is on the line, you find an extra level,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who entered the game as the top playoff goal scorer with 13. “You just have to, right? We experienced that in the Vancouver series. You just don’t have a choice — if you want your season to continue, you have to find another level. It looks like, for us, you need to be able to match that and go a step further to put a team away.

“To do that at home is a special opportunity, especially with the crowd and with everything on the line. It’s the hardest thing to do, to win the fourth one.”

As for pre-game jitters, Hyman said there was more nervousness in the first round, when the playoffs were new. Now, having survived elimination games, he said there’s a calm, business-like attitude around the team.

That was echoed by Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

“Honestly, I think as a leader in the room, or anyone that’s part of our leadership group, you’re always taking the temperature of the room,” said McDavid. “You’re seeing what the vibe is. And it does feel just like a regular game day. If there was any sense of nerves or anxieties, maybe you would say something. But, I’m not sensing anything.”

Dallas coach Pete DeBoer announced one lineup change on Sunday morning. Mavrik Bourque, who played just one NHL game in 2023-24, will draw in, with centre Ty Dellandrea going out. Bourque has 77 points in 71 American Hockey League games this season.

DeBoer said his team is calm going into Game 6.

“Edmonton’s got a veteran team, too, but we’ve got guys in our room who have played in gold-medal games and world championship games and Olympics,” said DeBoer. “So, it does make it a little less daunting. They’ve also been part of and been on the other end of facing elimination and getting off the mat and finding a way to win. We faced elimination against Vegas in Game 7 in round one, so we’ve been here before.”

Dallas has a 6-2 record in road playoff games in 2024.

Knoblauch said veteran Corey Perry is good to go Sunday night, though he missed about a period of Game 5 with what looked to be a shoulder problem. He said there may be one change to the Oilers lineup, but that decision won’t be made until after the pre-game warmup.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2024

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