LOS ANGELES (AP) – The former national ice hockey coach erupts in excitement whenever Marco Sturm talks about Leon Dreitel.
“I think Lyon is not only a great player, but also a great person. So I am also a big fan of him, »says the assistant coach of the Los Angeles Kings of the German press agency. And then later pushes : “But it’s on hold for a few weeks now.”
Because the Kings certainly qualified for the NHL playoffs – the 2018 Olympic sensation Sturm with a silver in Pyeongchang for the first time since switching from the German Ice Hockey Federation to the NHL – and the first round will meet the Dreitel and Edmonton Oilers.
Oilers with domestic rights
It doesn’t matter what happens in the remaining games of the main round until Friday. A 5–1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins placed the Oilers in second place in the Pacific Division and a home advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings were able to sit back and watch from the Seattle hotel as the chasers lost to the Dallas Stars in the Vegas Golden Knights penalty shootout and failed to finish third on the table. The Oilers’ duel with the Kings, Germany’s best ice hockey professional, with his predecessor as the German record goalscorer in the NHL, now on the rival’s coaching bench, is perfect. It is starting from next week.
“The goal is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re glad we’re in. The first step is done,” Draistal said shortly after qualifying over the weekend. It’s the title that’s missing in North America, the one that drives him and his years of outstanding performance as a player are valued more than any award. He was already MVP, first German and best scorer in the league. The Cologne player has already scored 100 points this season. It has not worked out at all with the Oilers only in the playoffs. The traditional Canadian team never progressed past the second round.
Hurricane with respect for the Oilers duo
“Leon is only 26 – if you haven’t won the Stanley Cup by then, that’s fine too. If he was 33, 34 would have been even worse. Lyon would have made his way. Whether in Edmonton or elsewhere , » says the 43 year old Hurricane. “There is still time. He is getting better and better too. I don’t think he has reached the end of his potential yet. I hope it will not be this year, but next year.”
The biggest challenge for the Kings in a maximum of seven matches is not only to keep Draistle under control, but also to keep his teammate Conor McDavid under control. “They have one, if they don’t have two of the best players in the world in their team. It won’t be that easy,” says Sturm. McDavid is the top scorer in the league at the moment, with Draisital in fourth place. “But we always have the Edmonton Oilers. We have played strongly against him and we know him very well. We have respect, especially for both, but we are not afraid.”
However, it is especially important to avoid being outnumbered against the Oilers. That’s when Draisitl and McDavid, who otherwise run in separate attack lines, stand together on the ice. “It will be very important for us not to give any stupid punishments,” says Sturm. Draistal in particular would be even more dangerous. “He’s just in the head compared to almost all the other players,” explains Sturm. “We know what his strengths are. But even if we do know it, he always manages to score goals or provide assists. That’s what makes him so special.”
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