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Oilers center McDavid will play Tuesday

Rookie has missed 37 games with broken left clavicle

by Derek Van Diest @nhl / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid will return to the lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday (9 p.m., ET; FS-O, SNP, SNO) after missing 37 games with a fractured clavicle. 

McDavid, 19, sustained the injury Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers, crashing into the end boards on a shorthanded rush. 

Prior to the injury, the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft had five goals and 12 points in 13 games and was named the NHL's rookie of the month for October. 

"It's exciting, I'm excited to play again," McDavid said following practice Monday. "Anxious is probably a better word [than nervous], it feels like my first game all over again. I'm just looking forward to it." 

McDavid will center the Oilers' second line between right wing Jordan Eberle and left wing Benoit Pouliot. Eberle missed the first 13 games of the season with a shoulder injury. His first game was Nov. 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was McDavid's first game out of the lineup. 

"I don't think [Eberle] and I have even played a shift together before, so this will be a little different for us; it'll be a little bit of an adjustment," McDavid said. "But I'm definitely excited to play with a guy like Jordan. Obviously, Pouliot, I have a little bit of experience with, so I'm definitely excited about it." 

Eberle has 11 goals and 22 points in 37 games for Edmonton (19-26-5) this season. He was the Oilers' leading scorer last season with 24 goals and 63 points in 81 games. 

"I think it'll be very good, everyone knows what he is like around the net," McDavid said. "He's got those quick, great hands and has a deceiving shot that fools goalies a lot of the time. If you get him the puck in a good spot, you know he's going to finish it." 

Eberle sustained a shoulder injury Sept. 29 in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes after taking a hit from Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura along the end boards. 

"It's funny the way the year has gone that I came back the game after Connor got injured," Eberle said. "I haven't played a game with him, even in exhibition, I haven't been on the ice with him. It's good to get out there and practice, I thought we had a good intense skate today and got our wind back, and hopefully, we'll find some chemistry tomorrow." 

McDavid has been practicing with the Oilers since Jan. 1. He went to practice with the Oilers' American League Hockey affiliate in Bakersfield during the NHL All-Star break. Edmonton had nine days off between games during the break. 

Columbus (19-27-5) defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Jan 26 in their last game before the All-Star break. 

"The one advantage that Connor might have is the whole league took a bit of a break," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "We may all be coming back rusty and it might give him a chance to fit in a little bit quicker. Based on how he's skated today and knowing all the work he's put in, I'm not as worried about him as I am some others." 

McDavid said the possibility of re-injuring his collarbone is remote since the Oilers held him out of the lineup until they were certain the surgically repaired bone had completely healed. On Nov. 28, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said McDavid's recovery was ahead of schedule, but he still was held out until after the All-Star break. 

"The doctors wouldn't let me play if it wasn't 100 percent, so you have to keep that in your mind," McDavid said. "You know that you've done everything possible to come back and be 100 percent healthy again. I have nothing but faith in the doctors. They were telling me when it was safe to play and it's safe to play." 

McDavid took part in contract drills during his time in Bakersfield and was also involved physically in practice Monday. He said the contract in practice helped prepare him mentally to be hit in a game. 

"It's definitely important," McDavid said. "I asked Jordan about it because he came back from something similar. I asked him how he was coming into his first game. He said once you get that first bump out of the way, you get a little bit more confidence in it. You definitely try to draw on his experience and after taking a couple of bumps last week in Bakersfield and today in practice. I definitely feel more comfortable than I did two weeks ago." 

With 32 games remaining, the Oilers are 10 points behind the Coyotes for the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.   

The Oilers hope with McDavid back in the lineup, they can make a push for a playoff spot. Edmonton has not qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since losing the 2006 final to the Carolina Hurricanes.   

"I know everyone is excited in here, I don't think anyone feels out if it by any means," McDavid said. "Everyone feels good after the break. They're excited, refreshed and ready to go after the break."

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