Oilers, Maple Leafs adapt to life on the road in their own cities for qualifiers

TORONTOMike Smith He said it could be the shortest road trip the Edmonton Oilers have ever done.

The veteran goalkeeper and his teammates spent their first full day in the bubble at a hotel in downtown Edmonton on Monday, about five miles from his residence. For the Oilers, he said, home is very close and yet so far away, a sensation that everyone will have to adjust to.

“It is definitely unique,” Smith said during a Zoom call with reporters. “The reality was definitively established when you took your luggage to a hotel room [Sunday] after driving from the track 10 minutes from your house and you’re in Edmonton.

“The only good thing is that it is unique for everyone. Everyone goes through the same thing, everyone stays in these two hotels, they play in the same arena, they dress in different rooms every day. It is something new for everyone. We are all in this situation, so we go day by day here and now. “

When the NHL announced Edmonton and Toronto as central cities on July 10 as part of its Return to Play Plan, coaches Dave Tippett of the Oilers and Sheldon Keefe of the Toronto Maple Leafs began to instill in their players that there would be no advantage. on the local ice. the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, let alone the chance to go home after games.

Video: Inside the Bubble: Western Conference teams arrive

On Monday, a day after the 24 participating teams arrived at the centers, 12 teams from the Western Conference in Edmonton, 12 teams from the Eastern Conference in Toronto, the message came true.

“I joked around with the boys,” Tippett said. “I said, ‘In a normal situation, you would be living at home and at least you know how to get to the track.’ But even with our boys, with the way the bubble was built, everyone wonders which way they are going, in which door come in. So we are no different than the others.

“The tracks, the surface of the ice itself, the boards, the glass and that are quite identical. So that part does not come into play. I do not see it as an advantage or disadvantage. I look at it as, we are familiar, but apart of that, we are on the same plane as everyone else. “

The Oilers and Maple Leafs will test the new reality on Tuesday when they meet visiting teams on their slopes. It will be their first opportunities to get used to being in different locker rooms and benches than they are used to on their home courts, Rogers Place in Edmonton and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

The Maple Leafs will face the Montreal Canadiens in an exhibition game in Toronto (8 pm ET; NHLN, TVAS, SN1, NHL.TV), and the Oilers will play the Calgary Flames in an exhibition game in Edmonton (10:30 pm ET; NHLN, SN, NHL.TV).

“We are in the same boat as all the other teams,” said Tippett. “We are in our dressing room one day, then we go out the next day. We’ve prepared for that during training camp. In games, players dress up in different dressing rooms. Just try to deal with it.”

“But we are seeing it as a road team. We have no advantage. There are no fans, we do not use the facilities as we normally do. We are just seeing it.” like any other team. “

The Oilers (37-25-9, .585 percentage points) are the No. 5 seed in the West and will begin their best series of 5 against the No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, .514) in Edmonton on Saturday.

Video: Marner on the adjustments necessary to compete in the qualifiers

The Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579 percentage points) are No. 8 seed in the East and will play No. 9 seed in the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, .579) at best -5 series in Toronto starting Sunday.

They are trying to accept their unique situation just like the Oilers.

Toronto forward Mitchell marner He wanted to take a piece of home with him, so he brought his own pillow with him to the Royal York Hotel, where the Maple Leafs stay. Since he lives nearby, he didn’t consider it a big problem.

“About pillows, generally all beds are quite comfortable, but you never know what you get with a pillow,” he said. “It’s just down the street, so it really wasn’t that difficult to bring. I just wanted to keep my own pillow.”

It’s all part of the new world that Maple Leafs and Oilers must learn to adapt to.

“It’s going to take some time,” said Marner. “We know.

“But obviously it’s kind of weird being at home but being in a hotel instead of at home.”