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Oilers' Draisaitl to make season debut vs. Canadiens

by Derek Van Diest

CANADIENS (9-1-0) at OILERS (3-7-0)

TV: SN, SN360, RDS

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl will make his season debut against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday after being recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League.

Draisaitl, 20, has one goal and one assist in six AHL games. Last season he had two goals and nine assists in 37 games with Edmonton (3-7-0), but was returned to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, who he helped reach the Memorial Cup final.

He was not in Edmonton in time for the morning skate.

"He [Draisaitl] started slow and picked it up [in Bakersfield]," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "He started slow initially and then picked up over the last weekend. Their schedule hasn't been ideal for development playing-wise. It's been good for development practice-wise, but actually playing, they've been a weekend team that hasn't played a lot of games."

Draisaitl was selected third by Edmonton in the 2014 NHL Draft. He was sent to the AHL after failing to earn a roster spot out of training camp, and the hope was he would play a significant role with Bakersfield.

Injuries, however, forced the Oilers' hand as forwards Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Rob Klinkhammer (leg), Matt Hendricks (foot) and Laurie Korpikoski (head) are out of the lineup against Montreal.

The Oilers were in a similar situation on defense and needed to recall defenseman Darnell Nurse, 20, on Monday, which is earlier than anticipated. They announced Thursday that defenseman Justin Schultz will be out 2-4 weeks because of a back injury. He joins Griffin Reinhart on the sidelines; he has missed the past four games because of an undisclosed injury and will not play Thursday.

Draisaitl will play right wing on the top line, with left wing Taylor Hall and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

"We wanted him [Draisaitl] down there to gain more experience," McLellan said. "But because of how deep we are injury-wise, he's the next forward to come up. He's going to get a chance to play with two very good players and we want to see where he is, what's happened in the last three weeks since he's gone down there, and has his game progressed in all different areas. We'll see how he handles the speed and the pace against a very good hockey club; the best in the League right now."

Edmonton will play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen against Montreal (9-1-0).

"We're four forwards deep as far as injury goes," McLellan said. "We will dress seven [defensemen] tonight and it gives us an opportunity to use ice time more effectively. If you're dressing six and bad end guys are making the same mistakes over and over again, you're a little more apprehensive to put them on the end of the bench and go with five [defensemen] 10 minutes into a game."

The Oilers are on a three-game losing streak but have won the past three games against the Canadiens.

Montreal had their nine-game winning streak to start the season end Tuesday in a 5-1 loss at the Vancouver Canucks.

"They [Edmonton] have a lot of skill, they have a lot of speed and they have a lot of elite players," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "It's going to be a challenge for us every time we play a high-skilled team."

The Canadiens will scratch forward Alexander Semin, who has one goal and two assists in 10 games; his 14 shots on goal are 11th among the 12 Canadiens forwards to play this season. He had been playing on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller.

"I expect more from that line, first of all, a better contribution," Therrien told the Canadiens website. "In his case it's better decisions with the puck, I would say. There's always a balance and you want that balance to fall more on the positive side than the negative side. In his case we found the balance fell a bit more on the negative side. There's no such thing as a perfect player or a perfect team. But you have to fall on the positive side, not the negative side. So when someone falls on the negative side you have to make some decisions as a result."

Paul Byron will make his Canadiens debut in his place. He was claimed on waivers Oct. 6 but was a healthy scratch the first 10 games of the season.

Goaltender Cam Talbot will make his third consecutive start for Edmonton. Carey Price will start in goal for Montreal. Price has struggled against Edmonton, going 1-5-1 with a 3.72 goals against average and .857 save percentage in seven games.

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Brian Flynn

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Paul Byron - Torrey Mitchell - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert

Carey Price

Mike Condon

Injured: None

Scratched: Alexander Semin, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Leon Draisaitl

Benoit Pouliot - Connor McDavid - Nail Yakupov

Iiro Pakarinen - Anton Lander - Teddy Purcell

Mark Letestu - Anton Slepyshev

Andrej Sekera - Darnell Nurse

Brandon Davidson - Oscar Klefbom

Andrew Ference - Eric Gryba

Mark Fayne

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Matt Hendricks (foot), Griffin Reinhart (undisclosed), Justin Schultz (back), Lauri Korpikoski (head), Rob Klinkhammer (leg)

Scratched: None

Status report: Petry will play his first game as a visitor at Rexall Place. He spent his first five NHL seasons with the Oilers, who traded him to the Canadiens on March 2. … Ference will play his fourth game of the season as Edmonton will dress seven defensemen. … Eberle skated with the Oilers for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the preseason but is still not ready to return to the lineup. He was placed on long-term injured reserve Thursday.

Who's hot: McDavid has four goals and five assists during his six-game point streak. … Hall has two goals and two assists during his three-game point streak. … Mitchell has a goal in three of his past four games. … Pacioretty has three goals and two assists in his past four games.

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