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Eichel ready to host McDavid in first NHL matchup

Top two picks of 2015 Draft highlight Sabres-Oilers game

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Buffalo Sabres rookie center Jack Eichel, the second pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, will face the player taken ahead of him for the first time Tuesday when the Sabres go against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG-B, SNW, NHL.TV).

The comparisons between McDavid and Eichel have been constant for two years, and have continued during their rookie NHL seasons.

"They're both young, they're both pretty good; I don't know if one cares about the other at all," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Monday. "I think that they both want to win [Tuesday] because of their teams. They're both great players. I think Jack has settled in here very well and is obviously a huge part of our team and a huge part of the community now. I see him on TV quite a bit doing ads and that, so he's settled in. And I know that Connor has gone by this building a couple hundred times going to Erie [of the Ontario Hockey League] and that so he knows the area also.

"I guess it's about them vs. each other as far as the media goes, and some fans will see it that way too. I just think it's two teams trying to get better that will both play hard. I know we'll play hard [Tuesday]. I believe so, anyway, after watching our last three games out west."

Despite the constant talk that has surrounded the two rookies, Eichel has found it easy to stay focused on his game.

Video: COL@BUF: Eichel rips puck between four legs for goal

"I think you just try to go about your business like any other guy in the room," Eichel had said Thursday. "When you get through that draft process, I think it all kind of goes away."

The Sabres won one of three games on their road trip through California. Eichel didn't have a point during the trip, and has gone without a point in four straight games. Before his current drought, Eichel had 27 points in 27 games. That streak started Dec. 17, but Eichel said getting time off for the Christmas break helped him recharge his season.

"I was able to go home, spend some time at home and get ready for the second half," he said. "I really don't think too much changed. I think there were a lot of times at the beginning of the year where I played well, but production-wise I came up empty-handed. It seems like the second half of the year I was, I guess, a little bit luckier in terms of production. I think I just had to find that consistency and I had been trying to do that game in and game out here since Christmas."

Like Eichel, McDavid has had his ups and downs this season. He missed three months because of a broken left clavicle sustained Nov. 2. That kept him out of the first Sabres-Oilers game, Dec. 6 at Rexall Place.

Even if they're not following each other's seasons, that doesn't make them enemies.

"I think we all had a good time doing that whole [pre-draft] prospects tour," Eichel said. "We had a good time together and I think we got to know each other a little better. He's a good dude and he's a good dude to be around and it was a lot of fun hanging out with him and [Mitchell] Marner and [Dylan] Strome and [Noah] Hanifin and [Lawson] Crouse and things we got to do. You know, the Everglades trip, the ballpark to take batting practice; it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed that entire experience."

Although it's the second time the Sabres will face the Oilers this season, the first NHL game between Eichel and McDavid adds a layer of intrigue. Eichel, however, is more concerned with helping the Sabres win games than igniting a rivalry.

"[The Oilers] have a lot of good players on their team, so it's going to be a good game for us," Eichel said. "I can't speak for [McDavid], but for me, I think I've just gone about my business. I think I just go about my business and try to focus on playing hockey and that's what I'm here to do."

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