The Edmonton Oilers are fully aware that getting past the Chicago Blackhawks, who still roster several top players from their three Stanley Cup victories last decade, will be no small task in their best-of-five play-in series this summer.
“You look at Chicago, the thing that jumps out at you is the championship pedigree they have in (Jonathan) Toews, and (Patrick) Kane, and (Duncan) Keith," Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said Wednesday, according to Sportsnet's Mark Spector.
"They’re top, top players - elite players. And you have to respect where they’ve been, what they’ve done."
The Oilers finished with a much better points percentage (.585) than the Blackhawks (.514) and thus own the higher seed in the No. 5 versus No. 12 matchup.
Edmonton, however, enters the play-in round with considerably less postseason experience. The Blackhawks' roster features eight players who've played in at least 65 career playoff games, while the Oilers boast just one who meets that mark in veteran winger James Neal. Despite the discrepancy, Tippett expects his club to be up to the task.
"We're going to concentrate on what we have to do to be successful," Tippett said. "We'll be prepared for what we have to do, and also look at Chicago and see if there's anything we have to be aware of going into the series."
League play was suspended March 12. Tippett predicts that players will respond to the long layoff differently, and that will have an impact on the Oilers' lineup strategy.
“There are going to be guys who have an extra jump in their step, and there might be some guys where the pause has taken a toll on their bodies. We'll monitor that," said Tippett. "Some of it is, we'll look at our opponent and see if there are some matchups that are better than others. There are a lot of questions."
Both the Blackhawks and the Oilers last appeared in the postseason in 2017.