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At the Rink: Capitals at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest
EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is looking forward to playing against Alexander Ovechkin and Washington Capitals for the first time at Rexall Place on Friday.

The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft has always admired the No. 1 selection from 2004.

"You always watch someone like that, he speaks for himself, so it's going to be pretty cool," McDavid said following the Oilers morning skate. "The way he shoots it from anywhere, he can get it off so fast, it's pretty dangerous. That's probably why he has so many goals."

Ovechkin, 30, has five goals and two assists in five games for Washington (5-1-0) this season. He scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

The game is Washington’s third in four nights, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he does not expect his team to be fatigued.

“It’s more mental that it is physical, the players are in such great shape, it’s about getting your mind wrapped around a short three-hour [game],” Trotz said. “When you’re playing back-to-back and you’re playing a team with great team speed and are a very talented group. You can’t make mistakes, you have to make sure you’re mentally sharp and are managing the game correctly.”

The Oilers (3-4-0) are on a three-game winning streak after starting the year with four consecutive losses. Edmonton has not won a fourth consecutive game since Oct. 27, 2014 when it defeated the Montreal Canadiens after victories against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.

"That's big for sure, [.500] is a mark that is nice," McDavid said. "It's not something that you're necessarily dreaming of, to be a .500 hockey team, but when you start 0-4, you want to battle back and get out of that hole right away. We have a chance to do that tonight."

Goaltender Anders Nilsson will make his third start of the season for Edmonton. Nilsson (1-1-0) was solid in his first two starts, making 81 saves on 85 shots.

"I'm happy that that they feel confident in me and are giving me the chance to play tonight," Nilsson said. "We all know it's going to be a very tough game, Washington has a very good team and they have some very good players that can put the puck in the net. We really need to be on our toes tonight and be at our best level for us to have a chance to beat them."

Nilsson played 23 games with the New York Islanders in a span of three seasons before going to the Kontinental Hockey League last season and knows how dangerous Ovechkin can be.

"I've played him at least once in the NHL and a few times with the [Swedish] national team," Nilsson said. "He's a very good player and he has a great shot. That's something we have to be aware of tonight. It's an extra challenge, because he's one of the top scorers in this League and he can obviously shoot the puck. But as a goalie, you can only focus on your own game and it doesn't matter who is coming at you, you need to focus on the puck and try to stop it."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Chandler Stephenson - Andre Burakovsky

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Injured: Chris Brown (hand)

Scratched: Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt, Stanislav Galiev


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsRob Klinkhammer

Benoit PouliotConnor McDavidNail Yakupov

Lauri KorpikoskiAnton LanderTeddy Purcell

Anton SlepyshevMark LetestuLuke Gazdic

Andrej SekeraMark Fayne

Justin SchultzOscar Klefbom

Andrew FerenceEric Gryba

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Matt Hendricks (foot), Griffin Reinhart (undisclosed)

Scratched: Iiro Pakarinen, Brandon Davidson

Status report: With Washington playing its second game in a back-to-back set, Grubauer will make his first start of the season. … Pakarinen was called up from the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League on Thursday after forward Andrew Miller was sent back down, but will not be inserted into the lineup. Klinkhammer moved up from the fourth line and will start the game with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins on the first line.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has a goal in each of the five games he's played this season, plus two assists. Backstrom has three goals and two in his first three games. … McDavid is on a three-game point streak with three goals and two assists.

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