Oilers coach: stars McDavid, Draisaitl played through injuries in playoffs

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said on Wednesday that some of the team’s top stars were playing through injuries during their Stanley Cup playoff run.

The Oilers lost 2-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

“It’s obviously disappointing, it’s frustrating,” Leon Draisaitl said. “There’s only one team that can win, unfortunately. But I’m very proud of what we’ve been through this year.”

Knoblauch said Draisaitl had injuries that left the staff questioning whether he could play, while forward Evander Kane had a sports hernia and captain Connor McDavid was also playing hurt.

“Leon battled things throughout the playoffs — ribs, hands throughout the playoffs,” Knoblauch said. “At certain times it was worse than others. There were games we weren’t sure he was going to play. But he fought through it and played very well in those games.

“And then Evander with the sports hernia, something that’s been bothering him throughout the season. And it got to the point where it just limited his game. And unfortunately, we missed him.”

Knoblauch declined to comment on McDavid’s undisclosed injury, saying he didn’t have much information on the ailment.

McDavid led the playoffs with eight goals and 34 assists and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs.

“There were lots of happy moments throughout these playoffs, for sure,” he said. “A lot of great moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The postseason’s top four scorers were all Oilers — including Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and defenseman Evan Bouchard.

“You often get defined on winning and winning that last game,” Knoblauch said. “We were so close to winning it. I think there were so many positives throughout the season that we should be happy about.”

The game capped a roller-coaster season that had Edmonton start with a 3-9-1 record, fire head coach Jay Woodcroft and install Knoblauch in his place.

Under the new bench boss, the Oilers went on a 16-game win streak and finished second in the Pacific Division with a 49-27-6 record.

“It was going to turn around no matter what. We had too good of players in that room to not score more goals and win more games,” forward Mattias Janmark said. “But I think, also, to become the team that we thought we were and that we needed to be, we needed to start doing things a little bit better, too.”

Several players hit major milestones, including McDavid, who had 100 assists, and Hyman, who scored 54 goals.

There are 10 unrestricted free agents on Edmonton’s roster, while the Oilers also have decisions to make on a pair of restricted free agents.

The club will also be able to sign extensions with some high-profile players starting Monday, including Draisaitl. But the German star said he hasn’t thought extensively about his future.

“I’m obviously going to sit down with my agent here, talk to the Oilers, see what their plan is, see what my plan is and go from there,” he said.

“I love being an Oiler more than anything.”

For now, Draisaitl and his teammates are simply taking time to process the highs and lows of their season.

The Oilers may not have won the Stanley Cup, but the team now believes they can get there, McDavid said.

“We’ve sat up here before and told you how bad we want to win and, looking back, we were miles away from it. And now we’re one shot away from it,” the captain said. “The belief has never been higher, not only within (Draisaitl and I), but within that room, within everybody.”


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