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Eichel-McDavid meeting on hold as Oilers host Sabres

by Derek Van Diest

SABRES (11-12-3) at OILERS (10-15-2)


EDMONTON — Buffalo Sabres rookie center Jack Eichel will have to wait to play his first NHL game against Edmonton Oilers rookie center Connor McDavid.

McDavid will not be in the lineup when the Oilers host the Sabres at Rexall Place on Sunday because of a fractured clavicle sustained against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 3.

It is the first game between the Oilers and Sabres since Edmonton selected McDavid with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and Buffalo took Eichel second.

Despite McDavid's absence, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma believes the Oilers are still a dangerous team.

"They have a ton of skill on their top two lines, like [Taylor] Hall," Bylsma said. "Leon Draisaitl is a guy that I saw a little bit last year watching some junior games and saw him at the Memorial Cup and he was the MVP there. He has 19 points in 17 games and he’s been pretty dynamic inserted on that top line. [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins, every time he touches the puck, I fear the guy’s skill and speed down the wing. That’s what we have to be aware of when we’re playing this Edmonton team."

The two teams play again March 1, in Buffalo, when McDavid is expected to be back from his injury.

Edmonton is on a two-game winning streak after defeating the Dallas Stars 2-1 in overtime Friday. Buffalo won 5-2 against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, giving the Sabres three wins in their past four games (3-0-1).

"A big factor is how we play with the puck," Bylsma said. "We can’t give up chances or trade chances or get into a game where we're running up and down the ice playing that speed game. When you play a team with speed and skill, you want to play a stationary game, you want to get into the offensive zone keep it there and that's how you want to play the whole game, prevent them from getting opportunities to get up and down the ice. A lot of that is our puck management and our execution with the puck."

Already missing McDavid, and forwards Nail Yakupov and Rob Klinkhamer, the Oilers will also be without left wing Benoit Pouliot, placed on injured reserve Saturday with a lower body injury.

Edmonton recalled forward Ryan Hamilton from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.

Hamilton played 16 games with the Oilers in the 2014-2015 season, scoring a goal and collecting an assist. He will play if right wing Jordan Eberle is unable to because of a foot injury, sustained blocking a shot in the win against Dallas.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan will make a final decision on his lineup following the warm-up.

"[Hamilton] is an insurance policy," McLellan said. "He's going to take warm-up and there is a chance he'll get in tonight. If we're healthy enough, he won't. We'll make those decisions after the reports we get after warm-up."

The Sabres called up forward Cal O'Reilly, brother of center Ryan O'Reilly, from Rochester of the AHL on Saturday, but he will not play against Edmonton.

Goaltender Anders Nilsson will make his fifth consecutive start for the Oilers. Goaltender Chad Johnson will start for the Sabres.

Here are the projected lineups:


Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Brian Gionta - Jack Eichel - Jamie McGinn

Johan Larsson - Zemgus Girgensons - Matt Moulson

Nicolas Deslauriers - David LegwandMarcus Foligno

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Zach Bogosian

Jake McCabe - Cody Franson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Robin Lehner (ankle), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Mark Pysyk (lower body), Mike Weber (knee)

Scratched: Tim Schaller, Mike Weber, Cal O'Reilly


Taylor HallLeon DraisaitlJujhar Khaira

Iiro PakarinenRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksMark LetestuLauri Korpikoski

Luke GazdicAnton LanderTeddy Purcell

Darnell NurseAndrej Sekera

Oscar KlefbomMark Fayne

Justin SchultzBrandon Davidson

Anders Nilsson

Cam Talbot

Injured: Connor McDavid (collarbone), Rob Klinkhammer (leg), Nail Yakupov (ankle), Benoit Pouliot (lower body), Andrew Ference (undisclosed)

Scratched: Ryan Hamilton, Eric Gryba

Status report: Ference was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. He has played in six of Edmonton's 27 games this season … Nilsson (7-7-1) has taken over the No. 1 position from Cam Talbot … Eichel is sixth in rookie scoring with eight goals and five assists (13 points) in 26 games. McDavid had five goals and seven assists (12 points) in 13 games before his injury.

Who's hot: Hall has 10 goals and 26 points in 27 games … Ryan O'Reilly has a goal and three assists in his past three games … Eberle scored the overtime winner against the Stars and shootout winner in a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.

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