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Sabres' Eichel moves up to first line

Rookie center set for matchup against McDavid, Oilers

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

OILERS (23-34-7) at SABRES (25-31-7)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; SNW, MSG-B, NHL.TV

BUFFALO - When Buffalo Sabres rookie Jack Eichel faces off against Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid on Tuesday at First Niagara Center, he'll be doing it as the Sabres No. 1 center.

Eichel centered a line between Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart on Tuesday morning. That line played together briefly at the end of the Sabres 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and now they'll get a shot to show what they can do for an extended look.

"We finished the game in L.A. together and we were able to generate some stuff against them," Eichel said. "Evander brings his unique style of play with his speed and grit and his skill, and Sam obviously brings his smarts and he's an easy guy to play with. Hopefully we can generate some things and score some goals."

Eichel's move to the first line comes four games after Ryan O'Reilly was injured in a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Reinhart was the center for the past four games, but Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is putting his three best offensive players together on one unit for now.

"I like the speed of Evander on that line with Jack and Sam," Bylsma said. "Sam is really our smartest player to be with them and feed off them and accent them. The intelligence of which Sam plays has been a big factor in his success this year; what he's been able to do. I think that's what he brings to that line with Jack at the center and Evander at the left wing."

The Sabres recalled forwards Cal O'Reilly and Dan Catenacci from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. The Sabres were short at forward after they sent O'Reilly and Justin Bailey to Rochester on Monday and traded Jamie McGinn to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional third-round pick. Robin Lehner will start.

Oilers forward Nail Yakupov will be on a new line against Buffalo. Yakupov skated with McDavid and Jordan Eberle on the left wing. With Benoit Pouliot out with a shoulder injury, Yakupov will get a chance to prove he can help contribute more offense.

"He was the No. 1 pick overall, so his talent level should be exceptional," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "He's got hockey sense that should allow him to play both sides [left and right wing]. A lot of the European players prefer to play on their off-wing.

"We're going to leave Jordan where Jordan is. [Eberle and McDavid] have had some…chemistry. They've had some chemistry and we're not going to fool around with that. [Yakupov] has been waiting for this opportunity and we're going to give it to him. He'll determine how far and how long we'll go with it along with Connor and Jordan. We expect good things."

The Oilers will have new acquisition forward Adam Cracknell in against the Sabres. Edmonton acquired Cracknell from the Vancouver Canucks on waivers Monday.

"It was definitely a whirlwind day yesterday getting the phone call at 9:15 saying I was claimed by Edmonton and talking to [Oilers Sr. Vice President of Hockey Operations] Craig MacTavish saying I had to be on a flight at 1:15 p.m.," Cracknell said. "Coming into a new team, it was nice to know Adam Pardy was coming in as well. I've known him since our Calgary days together. It's nice to have a familiar face around."

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start.

Here are the projected lineups:

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Zack Kassian

Nail Yakupov - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle

Lauri Korpikoski - Mark Letestu - Iiro Pakarainen

Matt Hendricks - Anton Lander - Adam Cracknell

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Darnell Nurse - Adam Clendening

Adam Pardy - Brandon Davidson

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

 

Injured: Oscar Klefbom (lower-body), Andrew Ference (hip), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), Eric Gryba (knee), Benoit Pouliot (shoulder)

Scratched: Nikita Nikitin, Luke Gazdic, Patrick Maroon

SABRES

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Dan Catenacci - Cal O'Reilly - Zemgus Girgensons

Nicolas Deslauriers - David Legwand - Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Carlo Colaiacovo - Mark Pysyk

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Injured: Cody Franson (neck), Ryan O'Reilly (right foot), Tyler Ennis (concussion), Cody McCormick (blood clot)

Scratched: None

Status Report: It's unclear whether Nikitin or Pardy will play for the Oilers on defense. Nikitin was one of the last players off the ice on Tuesday morning. He was recalled by the Oilers from Bakersfield of the AHL on Monday. Pardy was picked up off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets on Monday as well.

Who's Hot: Eberle has a two-game point streak with a goal and an assist.

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