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Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid to face off

Penguins-Oilers matchup features top two scorers in NHL

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- The NHL scoring race will be a certain headline when two of the League's marquee centers, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, play against each other at Rogers Place on Friday (9 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNW, ROOT, NHL.TV).

McDavid leads the NHL with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists). Crosby is tied for second with 70 points (League-leading 34 goals, 36 assists).

The game also creates a focus on what's to come.

Crosby, 29, is looking to add to an impressive resume that includes 137 points in 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games and two Cup wins. The defending champion Penguins are tied for second with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points.

The Oilers have 78 points, two behind the Anaheim Ducks for second in the Pacific Division, and are on course to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

McDavid, 20, is on track to play his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game in his second NHL season, just as Crosby did in 2006-07.

"It was totally different," Crosby said Thursday, referring to his first playoff game, April 11, 2007, against the Ottawa Senators. "A totally different level. Even the guys we were playing in that first playoff series, looking back I can't believe all those guys were on the same team, when I think about (Anton) Volchenkov and (Chris) Phillips and (Wade) Redden, (Dany) Heatley, (Jason) Spezza, (Daniel) Alfredsson."

Video: DET@EDM: McDavid shows off wheels, nets backhander

Crosby's memory was that his first playoff experience was beyond formidable.

"Thinking back … there was a level of desperation, physicality, everything was different," he said. "I don't think until you go through it you can really prepare for that. So I think there's a learning curve there as far as the guys you're playing against and how physical it is. I was 19 …and it was a big jump playing against guys like that in a playoff."

The Penguins lost that Eastern Conference First Round series to Ottawa in five games and Crosby suggested McDavid, while he may be going into uncharted territory with no playoff experience, may catch a break.

"He's lucky he doesn't have Volchenkov and Redden and guys like that all on the same team, whoever he's playing," Crosby said. "Hopefully he can ease into it a little better."

The chapter on McDavid in the playoffs has yet to be written but the Oilers think their captain will be well-prepared for the challenge.

"I think it started at the beginning of the season when our team named him the captain," goalie Cam Talbot said. "People were wondering how he was going to grow into that role and whether he was ready. I think he kind of took the bull by the horns right away. You could tell he stepped up and he was ready to be the leader of this team right away. And he has just kind of grown into it the rest of this season. He's evolved into a guy we look to not only on the ice but off the ice, to say things in the dressing room. All that responsibility has translated into his play on the ice and guys following him off the ice.

"Leading into the playoffs that's the biggest thing, that we're going to have to look to him for leadership. We've got a good core group of veterans here that he can lean on if he needs to but I think he does a great job preparing himself and doing that the right way. That kind of preparation will hopefully lead to a deeper playoff run with him as our leader."

McDavid missed Edmonton's two games against Pittsburgh last season, out with a broken clavicle. He has played one game against Crosby, in Pittsburgh this season, on Nov. 8.

Video: PHI@PIT: Crosby buries Guentzel's slick dish

Crosby had no points in 18:32 when the Penguins won 4-3. McDavid, who had three assists and was plus-3 in 18:53, said he's looking forward to another encounter.

"You get excited about it," McDavid said Thursday. "It's always a good test for me. I played against him most of the night. Most of my shifts were up against him and it's definitely a good test going up against the world's best."

McDavid said he is a big fan of Crosby.

"It's just how he handles himself," he said. "You're never reading about him for anything other than his on-ice play and that's something that I definitely admire about him. He's done a great job in the position that he's been in his whole life."

Crosby, asked about the scoring race, complimented McDavid.

"He's consistent," Crosby said. "It's what allows him to produce so much. Every night he's creating chances and producing. He's there for a reason. He's had a great season and continues to play really well down the stretch."

Crosby said he's hasn't checked the race too often.

"Not too much, the odd time you take a glance at it," he said. "There are a lot of guys that are bunched in there. I think at this point the points [in the standings] are so important, you're just trying to worry about that, but you hope the [scoring] points will come with that."

Video: EDM@NSH: McDavid races in, beats Rinne with wrister

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