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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Oilers

Top draft pick McDavid returns to Edmonton's lineup

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

BLUE JACKETS (19-27-5) at OILERS (19-26-5) 


EDMONTON -- Rookie center Connor McDavid returns to the Edmonton Oilers lineup Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The first pick of the 2015 NHL Draft missed 37 games with a fractured clavicle sustained crashing into the end boards against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 3.

"It's obviously a big day to come back and be healthy again and I'm looking for to it," McDavid said. "I've been pushing to try and play for a long time now and they wouldn't let me because I wasn't 100 percent healthy."

McDavid will center a line between left wing Benoit Pouliot and right wing Jordan Eberle. McDavid and Eberle have yet to play together for the Oilers. Eberle missed the first 13 games of the season with a shoulder injury sustained in a preseason game Sept. 29 against the Arizona Coyotes.

"Just watching Connor, I think his biggest asset is his speed," Eberle said. "He really pushes the defense back and I think it'll create more time for [Pouliot] and I, even on the forecheck. I think coming back from injury can be a little tough for [McDavid] too. We're going to try and find some chemistry off the bat and play a simple game so as the game goes on, we can get more comfortable together."

McDavid was leading NHL rookies in scoring with five goals and 12 points in 13 games prior to sustaining his injury. He was named the NHL's rookie of the month for October.

While McDavid makes his long-awaited return for Edmonton, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is back behind the bench after missing the past three games with two broken ribs sustained in a collision with forward Rene Bourque during an outdoor practice in Columbus on Jan. 22.

"I don't think it's as big a story as Connor McDavid, but I'm just glad I'm back with the team," Tortorella said following the morning skate. "This is what we're supposed to be doing, to be with the coaches and the players and I'm ready to go."

Tortorella was unable to travel with the Blue Jackets for their 3-2 shootout loss at the Boston Bruins on Jan. 23. He watched back-to-back 5-2 victories against the Montreal Canadiens in a home-and-home series from the press box Jan. 25-26.

"As critics do sitting up there, the game is so much slower and you see so many different things," Tortorella said. "As I'm sitting there watching it, it gave me something to sink my teeth into to try and help some of our players."  

Tortorella was hired by Columbus on Oct. 7 to replace Todd Richards after the Blue Jackets lost their first seven games of the season. He has never before missed games as a coach because of injury.

"I've broken ribs in the front, but I've never broken ribs in the back, so for me, it was a little embarrassing that I wasn't able to continue coaching. I've never had to do that before," Tortorella said. "But there was no sense in even me trying, because I couldn't move. I kept my coaching uniform that I had that day on for two days because I just couldn't move. I'm just happy to be able to go back at it."

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers. Joonas Korpisalo will start in goal for the Blue Jackets.

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno  

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson  

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Matt Calvert  

Kerby Rychel - Gregory Campbell - Rene Bourque  

Ryan Murray - Seth Jones  

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout  

Justin Faulk - Jack Johnson  

Joonas Korpisalo  

Anton Forsberg  

Injured: David Clarkson (upper body), Curtis McElhinney (ankle), David Savard (oblique), Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body)

Scratched: Cody Goloubef, Jared Boll  


Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Teddy Purcell  

Benoit Pouliot - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle  

Nail Yakupov - Mark Letestu - Zack Kassian  

Iiro Pakarinen - Matt Hendricks - Lauri Korpikoski  

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne  

Darnell Nurse - Eric Gryba  

Griffin Reinhart - Adam Clendening  

Cam Talbot  

Anders Nilsson  

Injured: Oscar Klefbom (leg), Andrew Ference (hip), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), Brandon Davidson (undisclosed), Justin Schultz (illness)

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Anton Lander

Status report: Edmonton is expected to assign left wing Rob Klinkhammer to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League prior to the game in order to make room for McDavid on the roster. … Clendening, who was claimed by Edmonton off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 27, will make his team debut. … Jones is the only member of the Blue Jackets to have played an NHL game against McDavid. Jones was with the Nashville Predators when they played the Oilers on Oct. 10.

Who's hot: Atkinson has four goals and an assist in his past two games. … Saad has three goals in his past two games. … Dubinsky has a goal and three assists in his past two games. … Jenner has a goal and three assists in his past two games. … Hall has two goals and five assists in his past five games. … Purcell has two goals and two assists in his past four games.

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