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Hockeyville Canada

Oilers' top line puts on show at Kraft Hockeyville

Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic create lasting memories for rabid fans

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VERNON, British Columbia -- Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle felt like a kid again on Sunday.

A participant at the Kraft Hockeyville 2016 festivities, Eberle responded with a performance that bodes well for the future of the Oilers' new top line with center Connor McDavid and left wing Milan Lucic.

Rookie forward Jesse Puljujarvi opened the scoring before Eberle and McDavid took turns setting each other up for goals in a 3-2 preseason win against the Los Angeles Kings at Kal Tire Place.

"I enjoyed it. [It] kind of brought me back to my junior days playing in front of those sized crowds and fans that are passionate about hockey and really love the game," Eberle said. "It was a great atmosphere, it was fun to play in front of and it kind of brought you back a little bit."

Video: LAK@EDM: Puljujarvi opens scoring from the circle

Eberle, McDavid and Lucic, who signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Oilers on July 1, were held off the score sheet in their first preseason game together against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, but got on the scoreboard early in the second period against the Kings.

McDavid converted his own rebound after a nice pass off the rush by Eberle, then returned the favor on a 2-on-1 rush in the third period with a nice move around the defenseman and a cross-ice pass that Eberle one-timed past sprawling Kings goaltender Jack Campbell.

"He was flying tonight. With his speed, he opens up so much, especially on the rush," Eberle said of McDavid, who had another apparent goal off the rush called back when the whistle blew because Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson was injured behind the play. "Both our goals were on the rush, so we still need to try to find a way to work each other's game on the cycle.

"Lucic and his big body is going to open up a lot of space, so if we can get offense from that, along with the stuff we're getting off the rush, we'll be a good line."

The local organizers of Kraft Hockeyville were excited to have the line in town, especially McDavid. The No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft spent a half-hour signing autographs for fans lined up 10 deep on his way into the arena for the morning skate, adding to the buzz among area residents who were still giddy about having the Stanley Cup visit the day before in nearby Lumby, which won the Kraft Hockeyville competition in Canada.

Video: LAK@EDM: McDavid buries his own rebound

"It's thrilling to have the Stanley Cup in my hometown, to have Edmonton and L.A. know where Lumby is, have players come out there," said Angie Clowry, who headed up the local organizing committee. "Tom Kowal from Vernon was refereeing the game and Connor McDavid being here, who everyone wants to see. I'm not sure it can get better than this."

Lowry accepted a check for $100,000 during a ceremony in the first intermission, money that will go towards upgrades at Pat Duke Memorial Arena in Lumby, located 25 minutes east of Vernon. The small town of 1,731 people rallied around the death of popular player and coach Peter Catt last November to win Kraft Hockeyville in his memory, and the packed arena in Vernon gave his sons, Jace and Linden, a standing ovation when they dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff before the game.

"Even though it's a smaller junior rink, it still felt like an NHL game, just with the excitement of the fans and the town," Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit said. "It was cool to be a part of."

Brayden McNabb and Paul LaDue scored for the Kings, but it was the atmosphere in the arena that left a lasting impression on coach Darryl Sutter.

"It's awesome, spectacular to see people that never get to go to an NHL game that appreciate and know hockey," Sutter said. "It was great to see."

Video: LAK@EDM: Lucic remembers game in Lumby, meeting Jagr

It wasn't all positive for the Oilers; forward Iiro Pakarinen will be out a month, according to coach Todd McLellan, after falling awkwardly over his left leg during a battle along the boards. Pakarinen clutched his left knee as he lay on the ice, and required assistance leaving the playing surface.

"Pakarinen is going to be [out] a little," McLellan said. "Call it a month and then see what happens."

Edmonton also lost defenseman Brandon Davidson to a high hit by Kings forward Tanner Pearson, who received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head.

"Davidson still being assessed and call it day-to-day until we get home," McLellan said.

Despite that, McLellan left Vernon raving about the Kraft Hockeyville experience.

"It was tremendous to play in front of a passionate crowd like that and know we are doing it for a really good cause," McLellan said. "Maybe there will be a young kid five or six years from now from that community [who will] play for one of our two teams in another Hockeyville somewhere."

Video: LAK@EDM: McDavid discusses playing at Hockeyville

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