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Oilers' Skinner has done his job so far in Stanley Cup Final, needs more help


EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The play of goaltender Stuart Skinner was the biggest question for the Edmonton Oilers going into the Stanley Cup Final.

Through two games, Skinner has done his job and is not the reason his team trails the series 2-0. The onus is on his teammates to get the job done at the other end of the rink against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers in Game 3 on Thursday night as the series shifts to Alberta.

“He’s been great," captain Connor McDavid said Wednesday. “He’s given us a chance both nights, and that’s all you can ask of your goalie.”

Skinner has stopped 40 of the 45 shots he has faced, and the goals he has allowed have largely come off turnovers and mistakes made by defenders in front of him. In the locker room following practice in Edmonton, the 25-year-old hometown boy was as relaxed as he has been at any point in the final.

“Anything that comes his way, any adversity rolls off his back pretty easily. He handles it really well,” coach Kris Knoblauch said. “(Like) our team, just putting the past behind us and thinking about our next shift or our next game or next play, I think Stu’s done a really good job with that.”

Skinner has not heard the praise showered on him by Wayne Gretzky during an intermission appearance on the Oilers radio broadcast during Game 2. That is intentional.

“In the situation that I’m in right now, I’m not putting on the TV,” Skinner said. "Just Mario Kart.”

Skinner has used meditation and reading books to get away from hockey, and experience has allowed him to handle booing and criticism better than earlier in his career. That lets him just do his job in net.

“Once the puck drops and you start playing hockey, it’s the same game I’ve been playing for years and years and years," Skinner said.

One thing Skinner cannot do is score goals, and Edmonton has just one through two games. Getting the power play going after an 0 for 7 start to the series is one thing, but after just one high-danger chance in Game 2, the Oilers are specifically focused on generating opportunities and scoring at even strength on Bobrovsky.

“We’ve got to get more volume there,” said Mattias Ekholm, who has Edmonton's only goal in the final. "Especially for us D-men, it’s maybe not so much about my shot from the blue line. It’s more about maybe that second opportunity, having guys around the net and go from there. I know offense hasn’t been a problem since I got here with this group, so I’m not too worried about it.”

Late Panthers departure

Opting to spend an extra night in their own beds and skate at their practice facility in Fort Lauderdale before flying, the Panthers were delayed by storms in South Florida. Their flight scheduled to take off at 1 p.m. EDT did not get off the ground until nearly 4:30, putting them on track to land at Edmonton International Airport after 8 local time.

“We didn’t like the idea of getting them up (Tuesday) early enough to get in at a reasonable time in Edmonton,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We did not see a value in it.”

Nurse good to go

The Oilers played much of Game 2 without defenseman Darnell Nurse, who was injured on a hit midway through the first period by Evan Rodrigues. Nurse skated just one shift in the second and two in the third, then didn't practice Wednesday.

Despite that, and based on the defense pairings in practice, the team is planning to have Nurse available for Game 3.

“Darnell, we haven’t considered much of not having him for our next game,” Knoblauch said. “With medical treatment he got, he was able to play a little bit at the end of the game. With the time off and everything we need to do, I have no issues he’ll be ready to play.”

Knoblauch also expects veteran winger Corey Perry back in after being a healthy scratch on Monday night. It's possible he replaces Evander Kane, who has been playing through a sports hernia and has just one point in nine games.


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