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Oilers coach undecided which goalie will start Game 5 against Canucks

Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch is undecided on who will be starting in net in Thursday night’s Game 5 tilt against the Vancouver Canucks.

The best-of-seven second-round series is tied at 2-2 after the Oilers pulled out a 3-2 win on Tuesday. Knoblauch opted to go with Calvin Pickard between the pipes over starter Stuart Skinner in the win.

“We have not decided. … We will have a decision for you tomorrow morning,” Knoblauch told reporters on Wednesday after landing in Vancouver.

Skinner was pulled in favour of Pickard after allowing four goals on 15 shots in Edmonton’s Game 3 loss on Sunday.

The 25-year-old has given up 12 goals in three games this series, with a .793 save percentage and just one win.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s victory served as Pickard’s first career playoff start in his 13th season of professional hockey, and he did not disappoint.

The 32-year-old made 19 saves, earning the praise of his coach.

“(Pickard) looked like a guy who had played 100 playoff games,” Knoblauch said Tuesday night. “Composed, really solid, seeing the puck really well.”

The choice to start Pickard was one that came from a lot of discussion.

“There’s a lot that allowed me to go into that decision,” Knoblauch said. “Talking to a lot of people on staff and getting a feel from the players, but mostly the assistant coaches, (president of hockey operations and general manager) Ken Holland, it’s everybody within the organization having a perspective and I gather as much information as I can and then we move on.

“Calvin came out and played really well. It looks like a great decision when the player comes out and performs. But the only reason why I felt confident going into that was because of Calvin’s body of work through the season.”

Pickard signed with Edmonton as a free agent in July 2022, but has spent much of his tenure playing for the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.

He was elevated to the NHL team’s backup role in November when the Oilers sent struggling netminder Jack Campbell down to the AHL.

Pickard started 20 games in the regular season for the Oilers, boasting a 12-7-1 record, with a 2.45 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

Skinner, on the other hand, had a 36-16-5 record on the year with a 2.62 GAA and .905 save percentage in the regular season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2024. 

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