PREVIEW: Edmonton vs. Guelph
Oil Kings kick off their Memorial Cup sched against the Guelph Storm Saturday
RADIO: TSN 1260 (Listen Live)
PUCK DROP: Saturday, 2:08 p.m. MDT
AT FRIDAY'S PRACTICELONDON, ON - The Edmonton Oil Kings held another practice on Friday, this time at London's Western Fair practice facility, in preparation of Saturday's tournament opener against Guelph.
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said that his lineup will remain the same on Saturday as it was for Game 7 against Portland.
This means the lines will be:
Curtis Lazar - Reid Petryk - Brett Pollock
Mitch Moroz - Henrik Samuelsson - Edgars Kulda
Mads Eller - Riley Kieser - Luke Bertolucci
Tyler Robertson - Cole Benson - Brandon Baddock
"You want to try and get that first win and try and establish yourself in the standings but for us it's just a matter of getting on the ice and getting back to our structure and the way we play," said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal on Friday.
The head coach added that he's spent a lot of time researching about the teams in this tournament, particularly Guelph and London with his Ontario connections.
"I've got a lot of feelers out there. I've got a lot of information and I'm sure they've got a lot of information on us. I know a lot of people who live in the Southern Ontario area."
Laxdal added that he's not adverse to changing up his plans depending on how the game goes and will be prepared for a number of scenarios.
"When you get into the heat of the moment you can make those quick in-game adjustments and that's part of the process that we're trying to focus on. We want to focus on the way we play but if it comes to it, we want to be able to make that adjustment because we're well-prepared for it."
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal said on Thursday that he isn't looking to overprepare his squad as they get set to face Guelph on Saturday.
"We're going to have a meeting (Thursday) and we'll have more meetings (Friday). With teenagers, if you tell them two or three days in advance they have a tendency to forget so we just want to make sure that we go about the same process that we prepare for everybody."
Laxdal also didn't want to rile up his team and make them feel like defeating the other Memorial Cup clubs will be a daunting task.
"We're not going to blow everybody up to the point where it's like 'wow, who are we playing against?'"
When looking at Guelph, the head coach made some comparisons to their WHL Finals opponent.
"Just watching video on Guelph, they are very similar to Portland. They've got that high octane offence and a very talented back-end and obviously a good goaltender. For us, we're going to approach it the same way."
"We're not going to get into the matching game up front but we will definitely match the defence."
Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz cautioned that the team needs to be on its game when it comes to being ready for every match-up in the tourney.
"We're going to have to do some pre-scouting and prepare differently. We haven't seen any of these teams. I haven't really seen any of the players. It's a huge thing, going into it. You have to do your best to reset and regroup for different opponents. It's a one-shot tournament so you have to be prepared."
COMPARING 2014 TO 2012
A common theme coming out of the line of questioning here early on is asking the Oil Kings to compare their experiences at this tournament to 2012 in Shawinigan.
"We're much more grounded and a lot more focused than we were two years ago at the same point," said Laxdal.
In 2012, the Oil Kings hotel was nowhere near the rink in Shawinigan. In fact, it was in Trois Rivieres. Being closer to the action is another advantage this time around.
"We don't have to leave a day early to get to the rink," Laxdal chuckled. "It's a better experience for our players to be in the environment. Everyone's talking Memorial Cup and we have that extra half hour in the morning to be prepared. Instead of leaving at 3:30 the guys are leaving at 4:00. It sets up better for us."
Laxdal also talked about some of the veterans who will be winding up their Oil Kings careers at this tournament.
"For guys like Henrik Samuelsson, Griffin Reinhart and Mitch Moroz, this is their going-out swan song. For us, we want to make sure these kids have a great experience. That was the motto for the playoffs for them and especially going into Game 7 in Portland, this could be your last game in your Western Hockey League career."
Samuelsson compared the two years also.
"In 2012, we couldn't really get back down from the high of winning the WHL Championship and now I feel like we've come down a lot since we won and we're a really focused group," he said.
Not having to play the first game in the tournament is another advantage they didn't have in 2012.
"This rest is huge for our team. We were a little banged up and tired so this extra day is huge and we can take advantage of it."