Oilers and Maple Leafs adapt to road life in their own cities for qualifying

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TORONTOMike Smith said it was perhaps the shortest road trip the Edmonton Oilers have ever taken.

The veteran goalie and his teammates spent their first full day inside the bubble at a hotel in downtown Edmonton on Monday, about a five-mile drive from his residence. For the Oilers, he says, home is so close and yet so far away, a feeling they will all have to adjust to.“It’s really unique,” ​​Smith said on a Zoom call with reporters. “Reality has definitely set in when you bring your luggage to a hotel room [Sunday] after driving from the rink 10 minutes from your house and you are in Edmonton.

“The only thing that’s good is that it’s unique for everyone. Everyone experiences the same thing, everyone stays in these two hotels, plays in the same arena, dresses in different rooms every day. Everything is new to everyone. We’re all in this situation, so I’m going day after day here now. ”

When the NHL announced Edmonton and Toronto as Plate 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 he there would be no advantage on the ice. the Stanley Cup playoffs, not to mention the chance to come home after games.

Video: Inside the Bubble: Western Conference teams arrive

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

“I joked with the guys,” Tippett said. “I told them, ‘In a normal situation you would live at home and at least you know how to get to the rink.’ But even with our guys, with the way the bubble is built, everyone is wondering which direction they are going, which door they are coming in. We are therefore no different from others.

“The rinks, the ice surface itself, the boards, the glass and which are quite identical. So that part doesn’t come into play. I don’t see it as an advantage or a disadvantage. I look at her like, we’re familiar, but other than that, we’re on the same plane as everyone else. ”

The Oilers and Maple Leafs will each get a different glimpse of the new reality on Tuesday when they meet the visiting teams in their rinks. These will be their first opportunities to get used to being in different locker rooms and benches than they are used to in their rinks, Rogers Place in Edmonton and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

The Maple Leafs will face the Montreal Canadiens in an exhibition game in Toronto (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVAS, SN1, NHL.TV), and the Oilers will face the Calgary Flames in an exhibition game in Edmonton (22 h 30 ET); NHLN, SN, NHL.TV).

“We’re in the same boat as all the other teams,” Tippett said. “We are in our locker room one day, then outside the next day. We prepared for this during training camp. In scrums, players dress in different locker rooms. You’re just trying to deal with it.

“But we think of it as, we’re a road team. We have no advantage. There are no fans, we don’t use the facilities like we normally do. We just watch it. like all the other teams. ”

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

Video: Marner on the adjustments needed to participate in qualifying

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

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

Toronto forward Mitchell Marner wanted to bring a piece of home, so he brought his own pillow with him to the Royal York Hotel, where the Maple Leafs live. Because he lives nearby, he didn’t consider it a big deal.

“The pillow thing, usually all beds are pretty comfortable, but you never know what you’re going to get with a pillow,” he says. “It’s just down the street so it really wasn’t that hard for me to bring. I just wanted to keep my pillow. ”

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

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

“But obviously it’s a little weird to be at home but to be in a hotel rather than your home.”



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