'Everybody's excited to get started': Oilers set to open a new season Wednesday night
After 142 days, the wait is (nearly) over for the Edmonton Oilers and their fans.
That's the last time the team played a meaningful game: a 4-3 triple overtime, playoff-ending defeat to the Winnipeg Jets.
On the dawn of a new season, the players say they've learned their lessons from last year's post-season let-down.
"I think we're, we're looking to go back to normalcy a little bit, especially tonight I think opening night is always very exciting for everyone," said forward Leon Draisaitl.
"Last year we were kind of scrambling a little bit early on but you know we're obviously looking to get off to a good start tonight and then kind of keep it rolling from there."
The team's season and home opener gets underway at 8 p.m. tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.
"It's great to have fans back, and hopefully we get a full 82 games and it's a regular year," said Oilers coach Dave Tippett.
"Our team has prepared well, had a good camp and everybody's excited to get started."
Earlier Wednesday, the club announced the signing of Colton Sceviour, who had been on a tryout with the team during pre-season.
"He's a solid, solid pro," said Tippett of Sceviour. "We're just looking for some added depth there and tonight, it comes in handy."
Forward Zack Kassian is not expected to be available until the weekend due to a head injury.
The team added Warren Foegele, Zach Hyman and Derek Ryan in the off-season while Jujhar Khaira, James Neal, Alex Chiasson and Ethan Bear were among the departures.
The Oilers will be looking to Hyman in particular for scoring, after signing the former Toronto Maple Leafs forward to a seven-year deal to play alongside star forward Connor McDavid.
Last year, the team finished second in the now defunct North Division before stumbling early in the playoffs.
“I think it's just that, building off of what we did last year,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie. “I don't think there's any secrets to trying to build off what we did last year.”
Forward Josh Archibald is one of only four NHL players to not be vaccinated and is currently out indefinitely with heart inflammation after getting COVID-19 this summer.
Backup goaltender Alex Stalock also developed a heart issue after contracting the coronavirus and isn't expected to play this season, according to general manager Ken Holland.
On defence, Adam Larsson left to sign with the expansion Seattle Kraken, leaving the established Darnell Nurse as well as veterans Tyson Barrie, Kris Russell and the newly-signed Duncan Keith manning the blueline.
"The big thing is not overlooking this regular season,” said Russell as the pre-season wound down.
“We've got to make sure we're prepared early and get some wins in early and get the ball going because it's a tough league.”
In goal, the team is turning to last year's duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen to split starting time.
“We're going to keep both of them going. One guy won't be out of the net for a long time,” said Tippett.
With files from the Canadian Press