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Oilers' Yakupov, Blue Jackets' Murray in initial meeting

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The top two picks of the 2012 NHL Draft face each other for the first time Tuesday when Nail Yakupov (No. 1) and the Edmonton Oilers host Ryan Murray (No. 2) and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I guess you can look at it like that," Murray said. "But I think it's more Columbus Blue Jackets versus the Edmonton Oilers, to tell you the truth."

Murray, 20, is in his rookie season, having missed the abbreviated 2012-13 NHL season due to a shoulder injury suffered in junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips. The smooth-skating defenseman has two goals and two assists in 20 games.

Yakupov, 20, is in his second season with the Oilers. He has three goals and three assists in 20 games.

"I remember the draft, that was a pretty good day in my life," Yakupov said. "I got to know Ryan a little bit. We were together at the draft. He's a good guy and I know he's a good player.

"He's a good defensive defenseman, but he never talks, he's a pretty quiet guy. I doubt he's said anything in Columbus all year."

Murray is letting his play speak for him.

A strong two-way defenseman, he's earning more responsibility on the Blue Jackets blue line as the season progresses. Going into the game Tuesday, Murray is averaging 18:53 of ice time per night and has a plus-3 rating.

"I'm a little bit quiet, but people that know me well probably say I never shut up," Murray said. "I kind of quietly go about my business. And as a rookie especially, I try not to talk too much.

"I got to know Yakupov a little bit. We went to New York before the draft and we got to check out a game in New Jersey as a couple of the top-five prospects."

Murray injured his shoulder prior to the World Junior Championship last season and was forced to sit out the entire NHL season.

Yakupov, meanwhile, had a strong rookie campaign for the Oilers, but has found the sledding a little tougher this year.

He's starting to find his game, however, with three points in his past four games.

"I feel much better and I'm starting to gain confidence," Yakupov said. "I thought we played pretty well in the third period of our last game. I think we just need to keep playing like we did in the third period the other night and try to do that from the first period."

Both the Oilers and the Blue Jackets are trying to get their seasons back on track. The Oilers snapped a five-game losing skid with a victory against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. The Blue Jackets are three games under.500, but have earned a point in their past five games.

"We're in the same spot as Edmonton," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We're 7-10 and we're looking up at a lot of teams.

"There has to be desperation and that's something that we've talked about. This is a big game for us. What we need to do is worry about ourselves, assuming we're going to get their best game or close to it. They have a real, talented group of forwards up front and if you're making mistakes with the puck and you aren't working in certain areas of the ice, they're going to hurt you."

Here are the expected lineups for the game.


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Nail YakupovSam GagnerAles Hemsky

Ryan SmythBoyd GordonDavid Perron

Jesse JoensuuWill ActonLuke Gazdic

Andrew FerenceJeff Petry

Anton BelovJustin Schultz

Nick SchultzCorey Potter

Devan Dubnyk

Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Mark Arcobello

Injured: Philip Larsen (back)


Boone JennerBrandon DubinskyCam Atkinson

Nick FolignoRyan JohansenRJ Umberger

Blake ComeauDerek MacKenzieMark Letestu

Artem AnisimovMichael ChaputJared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan MurrayJames Wisniewski

Nikita NikitinDavid Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Jack Skille, Tim Erixon

Injured: Nathan Horton (shoulder), Matt Calvert (abdominal)

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