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McDavid to make preseason debut for Oilers

Center has been recovering from knee injury sustained in April

by Derek Van Diest / Independent Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid will make his preseason debut for the Edmonton Oilers against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place on Tuesday. 

The 22-year-old center was on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian at the morning skate. He's been a full participant in training camp after tearing the PCL in his left knee in the season finale against the Calgary Flames on April 6 and rehabbing and skating on his own during the offseason.

"I'm excited, it's been a long layoff," McDavid said. "The first preseason game is always exciting. This one, obviously, comes a little bit later, but I'm just looking forward to getting out there."

McDavid had to wait for clearance from the Oilers medical staff. Edmonton has played four games and visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Flames on Saturday to conclude the preseason. 

"We'll get him up and going, but he's wanted to play for three weeks," Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. "It's between doctors and our organization, we wanted to make sure everything was right. He pushed us hard for two weeks and he's itching to play. I know he wants to get games in before [the regular season]. I don't know how many he'll play this week. We'll get through this first one, and then we'll figure it out. He's been itching to play for a while." 

Prior to the start of camp, Oilers general manager Ken Holland said McDavid most likely would not play any preseason games and could miss the regular-season opener against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 2.

"Ken said it right," McDavid said. "Originally, we thought hopefully one [preseason game], maybe none. This is probably a little bit earlier, but everything has been feeling good. I just want to play and be out there and see what that feels like again."

McDavid had an NHL career-high 116 points (41 goals, 75 assists) in 78 games last season, second in the League to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov's 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists). Selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, McDavid has 372 points (128 goals, 244 assists) in 287 NHL games and was voted winner of the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player in 2016-17.

The Oilers captain said he feels fortunate not to have missed any regular-season games because of the knee injury. He missed 37 games of his rookie season in 2015-16 with a broken clavicle sustained by crashing into the end boards against the Philadelphia Flyers. He is looking forward to seeing how his knee reacts to game contact. 

"I feel like that's any injury," McDavid said. "When I came back from my collarbone, sure you practice and whatnot and you take bumps here and there, but nothing really replicates a game. That's part of the game, and so we'll see what happens." 

Despite the injury, McDavid said he will not alter his game and the manner he drives to the net off the wing. His injury occurred when he was tripped by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano on a rush down the right wing. 

"I've been doing that for a long time, and you hit the post and you hit it in the wrong way and that happens," McDavid said. "I've gone flying into the net before and I've had nothing happen at all. These things happen, it's part of the game and you move forward."

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