With the arrival of the Oilers came a throng of traveling media that all seemed to want to know the same thing: How on Earth will the Ducks neutralize Connor McDavid? It must be a common theme wherever the Oilers go and might continue to be a topic of conversation for however long the 19-year-old continues his fervent pace. But McDavid is just one of a handful of talented young players on an Oilers roster studded with high draft picks from years not so long ago.
As is always the case, the Ducks are most concerned about their own play. It's an "80-20" philosophy that head coach Randy Carlyle adheres to, meaning 80 percent is dedicated to their own play and 20 percent focuses on their opponent. After the club's optional skate this morning at Honda Center, Carlyle answered all questions McDavid in diplomatic fashion.
"I think it's a big focal point for you guys," Carlyle said to the Edmonton media. "For us, we know he's a talented player. If we give him time and space, he'll be allowed to do the things he's already proven to do to other people. All we're going to do is take his time and space away and don't give him the opportunities on the power play. Those are the kinds of things that give players of that level extra incentive and extra time on the ice."
McDavid enters tonight's game leading the Oilers and ranking tied for third in the NHL in scoring with 19 points (5g/14a) through 16 games. He leads the league with 14 assists and has 67 points (21g/46a) in 61 career NHL games. He's only managed one point (assist) in three career games against the Ducks though.
Credit shutdown center Ryan Kesler for limiting McDavid's opportunities. We'll surely see No. 17 flanking McDavid tonight. The Richmond Hill, Ontario native is winning less than half of his draws (47.1%), so look for Kesler - who ranks second in the NHL with 207 faceoff wins and fourth in faceoff win percentage (60.7%) - to exploit one of McDavid's few weaknesses.
Anaheim's expected starting goaltender is John Gibson, who is coming off a rather forgettable performance in the 5-0 loss against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Tonight can be seen as a redemption game for Gibson, who was pulled after giving up four goals on 18 shots.
"I know we can play to a higher level than how we played in our last game," said Carlyle. "We definitely have to build on something here tonight. Hopefully this group is prepared to take the next step."
So it begins tonight against the Oilers who reached a smoking point after closing out the opening month of the season with a 7-1-0 record. They have since cooled off to room temperature over their past 10 games that has seen them lose three in a row and win only four of those contests (4-5-1).
Carlyle believes other teams are starting to figure out the Oilers, much like any other club in the league. The Ducks are no exception. "The parity in the league is so close," he said. "You can get away with things for a shorter period of time, but the pre-scouting and video doesn't lie. People pick up on what teams are trying to do and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Teams come in more prepared."
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks look ahead to their meeting with Edmonton