Oilers coach: Stars McDavid and Draisaitl played through injuries in the playoffs

EDMONTON, Alberta – Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch said Wednesday that some of the team’s top stars played through injuries during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Oilers lost 2-1 to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday evening.

“It’s obviously disappointing, it’s frustrating,” Leon Draisaitl said. “Unfortunately there is only one team that can win. But I am very proud of what we have experienced this year.”

Knoblauch said Draisaitl had injuries that left the staff wondering if he could play, while forward Evander Kane had a sports hernia and captain Connor McDavid also played injured.

“Leon was fighting things during the playoffs: ribs and hands during the playoffs,” Knoblauch said. “Sometimes it was worse than others. There were games we weren’t sure he would play. But he fought through it and played very well in those games.

“And then Evander with the sports hernia, something he’s been struggling with all season. And it got to the point where it just limited his game. And unfortunately we missed him.”

Knoblauch declined to comment on McDavid’s undisclosed injury, saying he didn’t have much information about the condition.

McDavid led the playoffs with eight goals and 34 assists and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

“There were definitely a lot of happy moments during these playoffs,” he said. “Many beautiful moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The top four scorers of the postseason were all Oilers, including Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and defenseman Evan Bouchard.

“You’re often defined by winning and winning that last game,” Knoblauch said. “We were so close to winning. I think there were so many positive things during the season that we have to be happy with.”

The game was the culmination of a successful season in which Edmonton started with a 3-9-1 record, fired head coach Jay Woodcroft and Knoblauch took his place.

Under the new bench boss, the Oilers posted a 16-game win streak and finished second in the Pacific Division with a 49-27-6 record.

“It would turn around anyway. We had too many players in that space not to score more goals and win more games,” said forward Mattias Janmark. “But I also think that in order to become the team that we thought we were and that we needed to be, we also had to do things a little bit better.”

Several players reached major milestones, including McDavid, who had 100 assists, and Hyman, who scored 54 goals.

There are ten unrestricted free agents on Edmonton’s roster, while the Oilers also have decisions to make on a pair of restricted free agents.

The club will also be able to sign extensions with a number of high-profile players, including Draisaitl, from Monday. But the German star said he has not thought extensively about his future.

“I’m obviously going to sit down with my agent, talk to the Oilers, see what their plan is, see what my plan is and go from there,” he said.

“I like being an Oiler more than anything.”

For now, Draisaitl and his teammates are simply taking their time to process the highs and lows of their season.

The Oilers may not have won the Stanley Cup, but the team now believes they can get there, McDavid said.

“We’ve sat here before and said how much we wanted to win, and in retrospect, we were miles away from it. And now we’re one shot away,” the captain said. “The belief has never been higher, not just inside (Draisaitl and I), but inside that room, inside everybody.”