PENGUINS (8-4-0) at OILERS (5-8-0)
TV: SN, ROOT
EDMONTON -- Right wing Jordan Eberle will make his season debut Friday for the Edmonton Oilers, who begin life without center Connor McDavid against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rexall Place.
Eberle missed the first 13 games of the season with a shoulder injury sustained on Sept. 29 in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Eberle returns to the lineup, admittedly nervous, a game after McDavid fractured his left clavicle crashing into the end boards in a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft is out of the Oilers lineup indefinitely.
"I think there are always nerves when you're beginning a new season," Eberle said. "I've been in the League long enough that when you start playing, you get into the rhythm of the game. There is a lot of excitement though, you train all summer, then something happens and you don't get to start the season with the guys and you have to watch it. It kind of just keeps building and building, and finally I get to get rid of it today."
Eberle, 25, led the Oilers in scoring last season with 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points in 81 games. He'll start against Pittsburgh on the top line with left wing Taylor Hall and center Leon Draisaitl.
"We'll open the gate and let him [Eberle] figure it out and he'll tell us, based on his play, if he can take more on or if we should pull him back a little bit," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "I talked to him yesterday and he's actually a little bit nervous. For all the big games he's played in and all the big moments he's had, I think that's a good thing for him to be able to come back and have sweaty palms and be ready to go."
The game was originally billed as one between two generational talents in McDavid and Penguins center Sidney Crosby.
McDavid is considered the best player to enter the NHL since Crosby joined the League in 2005. McDavid had five goals and 12 points prior to his injury and was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October on Monday.
Crosby has two goals and four assists in 12 games.
"I was excited [to play against McDavid]," Crosby said. "When you get to games like that, matchups, even now, I think you get up for games like that. I'm disappointed to see him get hurt, and hopefully, he gets back soon."
Pittsburgh is on a five-game win streak and has won eight of its past nine. The Penguins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Wednesday in the second of a four-game Canadian road trip.
Edmonton has won two of its past three games.
"With Eberle coming back and McDavid coming out -- certainly we would have liked to have played against McDavid tonight, but they get one skilled player in and one skilled player out," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "They have a lot of talent, especially on their top two lines, players that will try to beat you one-on-one. You have to be aware of that. We have to have some backside pressure against their rush, because they're a dangerous rush team."
Goaltender Anders Nilsson will make his second consecutive start for Edmonton. Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff will start for Pittsburgh.
Here are the projected lineups:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Chris Kunitz - Nick Bonino - Beau Bennett
Eric Fehr - Matt Cullen - Sergei Plotnikov
Ian Cole - Kris Letang
Olli Maatta - Rob Scuderi
Ben Lovejoy - Brian Dumoulin
Injured: Bryan Rust (undisclosed)
Scratched: Adam Clendening, Daniel Sprong
Taylor Hall – Leon Draisaitl – Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Teddy Purcell
Anton Lander – Andrew Miller - Iiro Pakarinen
Darnell Nurse - Andrej Sekera
Brandon Davidson – Oscar Klefbom
Griffin Reinhart – Eric Gryba
Injured: Connor McDavid (collarbone), Justin Schultz (back), Lauri Korpikoski (head), Rob Klinkhammer (leg)
Scratched: Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Luke Gazdic
Status report: Miller will center the Oilers fourth line, called up from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Forward Anton Slepyshev was assigned to Bakersfield to make room for Miller on the roster. … Zatkoff allowed three goals on 53 shots in a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres in his lone start of the season on Oct. 29. Fleury is expected to start Saturday against the Calgary Flames.
Who's hot: Hall is on a six-game point streak. He leads Edmonton in scoring with six goals and 10 assists. Draisaitl has three goals and four assists in three games since being recalled from Bakersfield on Oct. 29. … Crosby has a goal and two assists in his past three games. Kessel has three assists in his past three games.