Three straight first-round playoff matchups. That’s hasn’t happened for the Oilers since they drew the Dallas Stars three consecutive Aprils in 1999, 2000 and 2001

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Rinse and repeat and we’ll see what comes out in the wash. Colour the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings an ongoing spin cycle.

Three straight first-round playoff matchups.

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That’s hasn’t happened for the Oilers since they drew the Dallas Stars three consecutive Aprils in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and didn’t have the horses to beat Eddie Belfour, Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov and lost all three times. Usually ongoing sequels lose audience interest (Calgary-Oilers in the Battle of Alberta days aside), so we’ll see.

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Here’s 10 questions going into this engagement.

1. Can Oilers win a Game 1 against LA?

The Oilers have been playing catch-up the last two playoffs.

They lost the opener in 2022 4-3 with Anze Kopitar scoring on a power play with 17 seconds in the third and Alex Iafallo getting the OT winner, also on a power play, off a Viktor Arvidsson feed in the slot, nine minutes into the first extra session. Same story in 2023, exact same score, with Phillip Danault getting the deflection winner with five minutes left in the third after that Mike Smith giveaway to Danault which necessitated a diving Mike Smith save seconds earlier.

2. How will the expected Danault on Connor McDavid matchup go?

We’ve seen it for two Oilers-Kings playoffs now. Danault is one of the best two-way centres in the league, crafty, kind of an older version of Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli. He’s had 10 points in the 13 playoff games and he’s centring a strong but small second line with Trevor Moore and Arvidsson, who missed much of the year with a second back surgery.

But McDavid, who has seen William Karlsson and Adam Lowry in other checking matchups in other playoff series, has been McDavid in his 13 games vs. LA. He has 24 points, and 13 even-strength goals with one short-handed assist.

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Los Angeles Kings centre Anze Kopitar (11) moves in for the puck against Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl (29) during the first period in game four of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena. Photo by Gary A. Vasquez /USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

3. How many times will Leon Draisaitl dump the puck in against the Kings?

We all know 29 loves to possess the puck and loathes going the dump-and-chase route, but the L.A. playbook is a passive 1-3-1 defensive scheme. It’s like encountering head lice for Leon, going through the crowded neutral zone. He routinely makes those wonderful passes through skates and sticks once inside the blueline but he’s had to change his modus operandi. It’s worked because the Oilers have beaten the Kings, but a slice of him dies with the dump-in.

“Yeah, a little piece, it’s just unfortunate, it’s quite sad,” mused Draisaitl.

4. Sidebar on Draisaitl …

He suffered a high ankle sprain in Game 6 in 2022 when Kings’ D Mikey Anderson took him to the ice during a scrum with what appeared to be a slew-foot. They respect one another as competitors but there’s no love lost here. Reverse hit by Draisaitl, a few slashes. Probably coming.

5. How long before we see Corey Perry and Drew Doughty in each other’s grill around the crease?

The Oilers’ Perry is the king of sneak, as everybody knows (lots of sorry, what just happened there?) and Drew is maybe the most competitive defenceman in the league.

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But they actually like each other. If you’re thinking Doughty has the same animosity towards Perry as he does Matthew Tkachuk, not even close. Perry was at Doughty’s Stanley Cup party in 2012 when L.A. won as Doughty was at Perry’s in 2007 when the Ducks won. They live close to each other in London and hang out. They were teammates on the gold medal winning Canadian Olympic teams in 2010 and 2014. Doughty calls Perry “Pairs,” at least off the ice. On it, might be a swear in there.

Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers makes a save off a shot by Viktor Arvidsson #33 of the Los Angeles Kings in the third period in Game 1 of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday, April 17, 2023, at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Photo by Lawrence Scott /Getty Images

6. Oilers have the edge in net, don’t they?

This is Stuart Skinner’s second go-round with L.A. in the playoffs. Give him a B- on his report card in the first test last spring. He didn’t ace it, he didn’t steal any games, but he was better as the series wore on than Joonas Korpisalo, now in Ottawa. Only frustrating moment for Skinner: when his stick cracked after an Adrian Kempe slash and he flubbed a pass on an Oilers power play, and Danault scored a shortie to tie it 4-4 in Game 6.

We’ll see if ex-Oiler Cam Talbot or David Rittich gets the start in Game 1. Nice storyline here if it’s Talbot, though he lost both regular-season starts (one in a shootout on Derek Ryan’s winner) and he gave up four goals on 13 shots to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 82. Rittich, who used to be Big Save Dave in his Calgary days, did beat Edmonton four-zip and lost his other start 4-2, so maybe they go Rittich?

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7. Will Kings have any answers for Zach Hyman?

We’ve applauded Hyman’s breakout 54-goal regular-season, third most to Auston Matthews’ 69 and Sam Reinhart’s 57, but Hyman has been a major weapon with 14 goals and 27 points in his last 28 playoff games — against L.A., Colorado and Vegas.

He’s created a lot of playoff noise; his comparable on the Kings side is Kempe. The Oilers haven’t had many answers for him.

Oilers Dylan Holloway
Goalie Justus Annunen #60 of the Colorado Avalanche saves a shot on goal by Dylan Holloway #55 of the Edmonton Oilers under pressure by Jack Johnson #3 in the third period at Ball Arena on April 18, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Matthew Stockman /Getty Images

8. Will we see Dylan Holloway in Game 1, or somewhere in the series?

We should, based off Holloway’s five points in the last six games after his recall. The Oilers could use his speed, but unless there’s an injury to a left-winger, where does he play in the top nine? If Kris Knoblauch keeps Adam Henrique on LW along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Evander Kane is OK after missing games for maintenance, the inn is full.

Knoblauch likes Mattias Janmark as his fourth-line LW because he kills penalties, he’s also predictable and safe and he’s a veteran. Playoff action would greatly enhance Holloway’s development, but odds are Holloway watches the playoffs start, unless Kane is hurt and can’t go.

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9. Don’t Oilers have to be circling winger Kempe on their dressing room whiteboard?

While Kopitar is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, out against Draisaitl in a big-boy matchup, Kempe’s speed, size and shot are problematic for the Oilers. In the last two playoffs he’s attempted 104 shots in the 13 games (64 on net). He had five goals and eight points last spring, and has 14 points in 13 games over the past two years.

10. Oilers CEO torn between McDavid and Byfield?

Jeff Jackson is running the Oilers ship now but McDavid’s former agent is also the former agent for Kings forward Quinton Byfield, who was second-overall pick in the 2020 draft. So his emotions may be torn, a little.

The six-foot-five Byfield hit 20 goals for the first time in the Kings’ Game 82 OT win over Chicago — first time an L.A. player 21 or younger hit that plateau since Kopitar in 2008-2009. Byfield, who has spent considerable time on the wing with Kopitar, had five points in the last three Oilers regular-season meetings.

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