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Skinner, Oilers look to adjust heading into pivotal Game 4 against Canucks

Oiler goalie says previous adversity will help him after giving up 4 goals on 15 shots Sunday
Vancouver Canucks’ Pius Suter (24) watches the puck go in the net past Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner (74) during first period second-round NHL playoff action in Edmonton on Sunday May 12, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Stuart Skinner has been here before.

Like every professional hockey player, the Edmonton Oilers goalie has weathered periods of patchy play over his career. Now he’s looking to those experiences as he fights to regain his form.

“I think going through those adversities have really helped me, especially the situation that I’m in right now. Because I know I’ve been here before, I’ve been in a situation where maybe it doesn’t feel like it’s going your way,” Skinner said Monday, less than 24 hours after he was pulled from Edmonton’s 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s a position that I’ve been in before and I’m very grateful for those experiences so that I’m not a complete mess right now.”

Skinner gave up four goals on 15 shots Sunday as the Canucks took a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven, second-round series.

The mistakes were 90 per cent mental, the 25-year-old goalie said.

“I think physically there are little adjustments I can make. But to be super honest, I don’t think it’s anything technical. I think it’s just me being able to find saves at key times, and I haven’t been able to do that,” he said.

A question mark looms over whether Skinner starts for a pivotal Game 4 in Edmonton Tuesday.

Skinner has bounced back well all season, said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch, but Edmonton’s coaching staff won’t reveal who will take the net until Tuesday morning.

“We’ve got a decision to make, but I think either guy that we choose could get the job done,” he said.

Skinner isn’t the only one player Knoblauch is looking to get more out of in Game 4.

The coach has leaned hard on his superstars through the first three games of the series, playing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl nearly 30 minutes apiece on Sunday.

He knows that usage isn’t sustainable, but admits turning to other players can be difficult when the team’s top players are producing and Edmonton is chasing the game.

Draisaitl has two goals and six assists in the series, while McDavid has a goal and four helpers. Zach Hyman has also contributed two goals and an assist.

“It is tough having that temptation (to play McDavid and Draisaitl). Hopefully the temptation is alleviated with a two- or three-goal lead,” Knoblauch said.

“We have other players that have shown they can score. … We’ve got a lot of guys that can help out. Maybe not for one game but also throughout the playoffs we’re going to need some more contributions.”

Asked Monday whether he can continue to play 30 minutes a night, McDavid said he “felt great.”

“Ultimately, I go out there when the coach asks me to and that’s what I’ll keep doing,” the Oilers captain said.

Players don’t get to choose how much time they spend out on the ice, said Edmonton winger Evander Kane, but everyone in the locker room is looking to help out.

“I think everybody in this room wants to make their mark and contribute to the team. And we don’t control any of that,” he said. “When we get on the ice we obviously want to put our best foot forward and do what we can to help the team win.”

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