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McDavid looking for first win with Oilers against Crosby, Penguins

Edmonton center winless in six tries against Pittsburgh captain

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Connor McDavid knows it's not just another game when he faces Sidney Crosby.

The Edmonton Oilers center, who was selected No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft, hasn't won in six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins with Crosby in their lineup. McDavid said he'll be ready for a seventh chance when the Oilers play the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; SN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV).

"It's always easy for us to get up to play them," McDavid said. "It's always exciting."

That's normally how it works when premier players are showcased. It's been that way for generations, Oilers coach Dave Tippett said.

"I remember as a kid, Bobby Orr used to come on 'Hockey Night in Canada,'" Tippett said. "Whether you're a Boston [Bruins] fan or not, you always wanted to watch Bobby Orr play. You get top players in a matinee, you're expecting to see a great game with top players competing against each other."

That will be the case Saturday, but it's been one-sided. With McDavid in the lineup, the Oilers are 0-3-3 against Crosby and the Penguins.

McDavid has at least one point in each of those games for a total of 12 (three goals, nine assists). Crosby, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in those games, said McDavid provides one of his greatest tests during the regular season.

"I get prepared knowing it's going to be a good challenge, knowing that you're playing against him," the Penguins center said. "Just knowing what he can do and the game that he plays, you have to be aware. I think you prepare accordingly."

Still, McDavid gave Crosby, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, the edge. Not because of Crosby's six wins in their personal series, but because of his three Stanley Cup championships (2009, 2016 and 2017).

Video: PIT@EDM: McDavid whips home PPG to tie the game

"He's been so successful," McDavid said. "If I could even take just a little piece of his game and add it, I think that would help."

A lot of Crosby can already be found in McDavid, at least according to Oilers forward James Neal.

"What sets them apart from the rest of the group is, I think, their ability to handle pucks at that speed," said Neal, who played for the Penguins from 2011-14. "There are fast guys, but those guys can make plays and handle a puck at that speed and find guys around the net, or trailers or anything like that. Their ability to play with the puck and skate like that is kind of what sets them apart."

Crosby was 23 years old when Neal debuted for Pittsburgh on Feb. 23, 2011. More than eight years later, Neal said McDavid, who is 22, reminds him of that younger Crosby.

"In the way they carry themselves, they're both very mature in their young age," Neal said. "Both really good guys, really good people and, obviously, unbelievable hockey players. Great team guys. They care about every guy in the locker room. They want to win. They have that competitive spirit.

"They bring it to work every day in the way they play and the way they practice, their willingness to do anything to be the best. I definitely see that in both of them. I think the work they both put in to be at their best every game is pretty impressive."

McDavid, who didn't play against the Penguins during his rookie season of 2015-16 because of injury, said he learned a lot from watching Crosby.

Video: PIT@EDM: Crosby scores spectacular goal in OT

"He's a guy that's been in a spotlight for over a decade now," McDavid said. "I think he's handled it perfectly. You've never seen a bad thing about him. I think he's kind of set the standard that way."

After Pittsburgh practiced Wednesday, Crosby said McDavid has likely faced more pressure than he did after being drafted in 2005. With the rise of social media, Crosby said the landscape has changed for young, high-profile players.

The way McDavid has navigated it has left Crosby impressed.

"Obviously, he's got a lot of pressure and expectations," said Crosby, who is 32. He's handled it really well. So I think it's kind of a personal thing. Everyone handles things differently. He's done a good job."

Respect has defined the lead-up to this game. It will likely be the same for future matchups as well.

"A lot has been made about it," McDavid said. "[Crosby] was probably the guy I followed the most growing up in hockey. It's always exciting to play against him."

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