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GAME PREVIEW: Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings

Regular season’s over. Time to go to work.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings


Round 1, Game 1

02 May 2021

Rogers Place



Radio: 630 CHED

SB Nation Opponent: Jewels From The Crown


The regular season is complete, and the playoffs are just about to begin. Edmonton faces LA in the first round best of seven starting tonight. The Oilers are looking to forget all about getting swept in round one by the Winnipeg Jets last season, they’d love nothing more than to dominate LA at both ends of the ice. The first game in the best of seven round begins tonight. Can the Oilers get on the board early and often?

Let’s go to the tape.


“I’m excited for sure. I’m excited because our team has earned the right to be the home team in Game 1 of an NHL playoff series...I’ve been around a lot of NHL playoff games and had some good runs in the AHL. This is my first time being the head coach in this situation, but I feel very prepared for it.”


That’s Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft.

Tonight is Woodcroft’s first playoff game as an NHL head coach. He’s done quite well for himself since becoming Edmonton’s bench boss, going 26-9-3 in relief of Dave Tippett. After three years in Detroit as a video coach, seven years in San Jose as an assistant coach, three years as an assistant with the Oilers and over three years as Bakersfield’s head coach, it’s Woodcroft’s time to shine in the postseason.


“Identity, resiliency, we’ve experienced a lot of things and I think we’ve played good hockey...we’ll continue on and try to do it the way that we have.”


That’s Kings head coach Todd McLellan.

You’d be hard pressed to find a list of playoff predictions that included LA but not Vegas on it. Credit to the Kings where it’s deserved: they’ve kept a lot of traffic away from their goaltenders and when you limit chances, you limit goals against. The Kings might not have very many household names among their defence, but there’s a reason this defence had the eleventh fewest goals allowed this season.


  • Darnell Nurse is “a game time decision” according to Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft. Nurse suffered a lower body injury over a week ago in a game against the Colorado Avalanche and has been out of the lineup since. If Nurse isn’t in tonight, it likely will change those pairs up a bit.
  • Jesse Puljujärvi has been taking it off the chin from some of the media folks this week. (We’re on body language already? It’s too soon to be doing the Ales Hemsky thing to Puljujärvi, Jim!) That’s too bad, as Puljujärvi finished with just five points less than Kailer Yamamoto this season while playing in nearly 20 games less. Plus, there’s that whole driving the possession thing he’s pretty good at. Atop the first line again, I see. All is correct in the world.
  • Todd McLellan is back in the postseason for the first time as Kings head coach. It’s also his first time back in the postseason since he was behind the bench for Edmonton’s miracle run of 2016-17 when Cam Talbot played like 7300 games that year. The Oilers won a series that year, it was wild.
  • Really excited to see Mike Smith get the start tonight, and I’m also excited to see Smith continue his lighting .950+ SV% in May that he carried in April. That might be a talk ask, but now’s a good time to have a ridiculous streak continue. Expect Jonathan Quick for the Kings tonight, who will play postseason games for the first time since 2018.
  • The Kings don’t have the firepower that the Oilers have, but Edmonton is likely to have their hands full with LA’s first line. Anze Kopitar (19-48-67) and Adrian Kempe (35 goals) are a pair that could give Oiler defence fits. Kopitar has assisted on 20 of Kempe’s 35 goals this year, it’s a duo that succeeds. Andreas Athanasiou (10-13-23 in 47 GP) might not carry gaudy point totals, but he’s a speedy winger who will look to expose a flat footed defenceman.
  • Game one is tonight. LFG.