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Leon Draisaitl carving own niche with Oilers

Third-year forward leading Edmonton in goals, fueling push to top of Pacific Division

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan was talking about his difference-making forward, a gifted goal scorer who seems to have the collective number of the Anaheim Ducks.

"He plays well in big games against big opponents," McLellan said. "It's a really good sign for his career and for our organization."

For once, he was not talking specifically about Connor McDavid, the NHL's leading scorer. This was about McDavid's linemate, forward Leon Draisaitl, who scored twice in Edmonton's 4-0 win against the Ducks at Honda Center on Wednesday.

Draisaitl has four goals in three games against the Ducks this season, including two game-winners. He has 19 goals and four two-goal games this season. 

His career numbers against Anaheim: Six goals and nine points in 10 games.

This was one of those few nights where it wasn't primarily about McDavid after an Oilers victory. This time, McLellan answered plenty of questions about the generational talent after the morning skate, and he'll likely be talking about McDavid before and after the Oilers play at the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, SNW, NHL.TV). 

Of course, there were kudos directed at McDavid, who was at his unselfish best, opting to pass rather than shoot, in setting up Draisaitl's first goal at 5:33 of the second period to make it 1-0.

Video: EDM@ANA: Draisaitl nets give-and-go from McDavid

"I think Connor will tell you about 21 guys were yelling, 'Shoot,'" McLellan said. "Maybe that's why he's special because he looked to pass."

Said Draisaitl: "Connor is just an unselfish guy. He likes guys to score and I think with him you always have to be ready no matter where you are. He's able to find you and he's able to find those seams. It's been working for us."

The chemistry among Patrick Maroon, McDavid and Draisaitl was visible at Honda Center. The line accounted for four points and goalie Cam Talbot made 26 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and 15th of his NHL career.

Draisaitl's Oilers-leading 19 goals in 50 games matched his goal-scoring output in 72 games last season. His efficiency against the Ducks was admirable: Two shots, two goals.

"I think our whole line has been playing really good," he said. "In this league, you won't score three goals every night as a line. Even though we haven't been scoring as much lately, I think we've been playing really good and creating."

Video: EDM@ANA: Draisaitl finishes nifty passing play

Draisaitl went a little deeper in explaining McDavid's considerable influence on his game.

"He pushes me to play with pace, to play fast," he said. "Because he's so fast, it pushes me to keep up on the play and make those little plays to him at full speed."

The Oilers are on a 6-0-1 run entering the game at San Jose, their last before the All-Star break.

Anaheim has faltered in big games this month, losing twice to the Minnesota Wild and now to the Oilers. 

"We beat ourselves," center Ryan Kesler said. "We have ourselves to blame for this one."

With the All-Star break looming, it is a tight race in the Pacific Division. San Jose leads the second-place Ducks by a point and the Oilers by two. Wayne Gretzky was in Edmonton's dressing room after the game and assessed the division race.

Video: ARI@EDM: Draisaitl uses quick hands to pad the lead

 "It was a big statement for these guys to play a game like this," said Gretzky, who in October was named partner and vice chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group. "To have an opportunity to go into San Jose [Thursday] night, playing for first place heading into the All-Star break. Tonight was a nice statement.

"Leon got everything rolling."

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