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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Apr 6, 2024 9:34 am

Even after clinching, Oilers continue playoff drive vs. Flames

connor mcdavid

The Oilers have clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but as they hit the road to face the Calgary Flames in the final installment of this season’s Battle of Alberta, Edmonton has no reason to stop pushing for more.

With seven games remaining in their regular season, the Oilers (46-24-5, 97 points) are five points back of the Vancouver Canucks for top spot in the Pacific Division and own one game in hand. Edmonton also has a five-point edge on the third-place Vegas Golden Knights.

It would be a lofty goal to move past the Canucks, but do not rule it out. After all, the Oilers punched their playoff ticket despite winning only two of the first dozen games and holding a 5-12-1 record on Nov. 22.

“To get there this soon is maybe a little surprising, but when you’re pulling off a 16-game winning streak, another eight-game winning streak, they made up a lot of ground in a short period of time,” coach Kris Knoblauch said. “It wasn’t easy and they should be really proud of what they accomplished.”

Edmonton clinched its spot with an impressive 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Friday night. Captain Connor McDavid scored twice to reach the 30-goal mark, Leon Draisaitl reached the 100-point milestone for the fifth time in his career, Evander Kane scored twice to emphatically snap a 21-game goal drought and defenseman Mattias Ekholm scored for the third time in four games.

“It’s always nice to beat a good team. That’s a really good team,” Draisaitl said of the Avalanche. “They’re going to be in the playoffs and they’re going to be good in the playoffs, so it’s always nice, especially at home.”

The Flames (34-36-5, 73 points) return home after they officially were eliminated from the playoffs with a 5-2 road loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Calgary, which won the Pacific Division regular season title in 2021-22, has missed the Stanley Cup tournament two consecutive seasons.

“Everybody wants to chase the Cup, that’s what it’s about,” defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “Some teams are ramping it up right now to go on a big playoff run and some teams are looking out, which is disappointing. But we’re going to build a great culture here the last (seven) games and we’ll bring that into next year with a great environment, a strong culture and a great identity.”

The Flames have lost two straight games, seven of eight and 10 of 13 outings since the trade deadline, by which they had dealt away a trio of key pending unrestricted free agents.

The Flames played well in Winnipeg, despite what the final score read.

“The effort was what we want to see. Five-on-five, I liked our game,” coach Ryan Huska said. “Their power play was good. … They had a lot of chances off their power play, but I was pleased the way we came out and played. It was really the total opposite of our last game, so that’s what we need to continue to see.”

With seven games remaining, the battle for jobs next season has kicked off.

“The most important message that we’ve had for them, we’ll continue to have for them: It’s always about the way you play,” Huska said. “It’s always about leaving the rink when you’re done making sure that you put your best effort forward, because that’s what people remember at the end of the day, including your teammates.”

–Field Level Media

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