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Edmonton Oilers not taking chance to hoist Stanley Cup for granted

Pressure is a privilege — and the Edmonton Oilers are not taking their chance to hoist the Stanley Cup for granted.

Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who the Oilers drafted No. 1 in 2011, remembers the adversity the franchise faced when he entered the NHL. 

"It's rare for it to all just go well through your entire career," Nugent-Hopkins told reporters Saturday ahead of Game 1 in Florida. "I went through that at the start of the career and then had some really good years, where we really had a belief in the team.

"We've — especially this core group — always believed that we've had it in us to get to this point. Obviously, it's a long road and difficult to do, so we're excited to be here."

The championship series between Edmonton and the Florida Panthers starts Saturday evening. The Panthers are looking to rectify last season's title loss and win their first Stanley Cup, while the Oilers are trying to earn their first since 1990.

The Oilers last made the Stanley Cup final in 2006, pushing the Carolina Hurricanes to seven games. Then, the club missed the playoffs in 12 of the 13 following seasons, before becoming a regular playoff contender in recent years.

"It's kind of tough to put into words what the experience is like, but you just have to take it in every day and enjoy it," Oilers forward Ryan McLeod said Saturday.

"You don't get these opportunities all the time. We know how grateful we are to be here, so [we're] just putting our best foot forward."

For most of the roster, this series is a first: only five Oilers players have played in a Stanley Cup final before.

Among them is defenceman Mattias Ekholm. He suited up for the Nashville Predators in 2017, ultimately losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

The veteran