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Oilers plan to play their style while matching Panthers' physicality


The scouting report is in: the Florida Panthers like to play a physical style, maybe more so than what the Edmonton Oilers have already experienced in the 2024 National Hockey League playoffs.

That's OK with the Oilers, whose calling card is a blend of skill, speed and team defence, but they say they can adapt to rougher stuff, too, as they prepare for Saturday's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Fla.

"If you can figure it out quick, you're going to have the upper hand," Oilers forward Corey Perry, who faced off against the Panthers on a regular basis over two recent seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, said Tuesday during a media availability at Rogers Place.

The 18-year National Hockey veteran added he and his teammates "understand" what the Panthers will bring to the Cup final and that confidence in their own game will be helpful.

Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch said Tuesday his team has played well physically through three rounds of the playoffs — "We were more physical in the Dallas series, finishing checks, but as for what we've seen so far for the physicality for series, the series against Vancouver was probably our most physical series or opponent," he said — and expects "even more" of that style of play from the Panthers.

Panthers 'a different challenge'

"There's stuff that happens after the whistles. We're going to avoid that," Knoblauch told media. "We're going to just play hockey between the whistles and play our best. I think that we want to be making plays. I think we defend well, and we don't want to get away from that.

"Yes, they've got their style of hockey that they want to play, and there's a style that we want to play. We're going to try to adhere to that as much as we can."

Oilers defenceman Mattias Ekholm agreed with Knoblauch that the seven-game, second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks is a good measure of what they can expect from the Panthers and from themselves as they adjust.

"(The Canucks) had some big guys that really want to make their presence known in a physical way, so I do think we've seen it," Ekholm said Tuesday.

"I thought we handled it well in that series, but obviously it's a different challenge ... You have to be able to play every single style to be able to hoist it in the end, so for us, we'll look at what their tendencies are and whatnot, but we know it's going to be physical and we're up for that challenge."