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Red Wings, Oilers feature two of League's top rookies

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

RED WINGS (3-2-0) at OILERS (2-4-0)

TV: SN1, FS-D

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin last played against each other at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in January.

On Wednesday the two standout rookies meet for the first time in the NHL as the Oilers (2-4-0) attempt to extend their win streak to three games while the Red Wings (3-2-0) look to end a two-game losing streak.

"We know each other a little bit," Larkin said. "I wouldn't say [our careers] have been really parallel until this year. But he's a generational talent and he's a first-overall draft pick and he's off to a great start. I got to meet him this summer for the first time in person. I was very impressed with how nice he was as a guy and it's cool to see a guy like that be so good at something he's always wanted to do."

Larkin, 19, has two goals and four assists in five games and enters play Wednesday tied for fourth among rookies with six points. McDavid, 18, has three goals and two assists in six games and is sixth in rookie scoring with five points.

"I played against him [at World Juniors] but I didn't know him personally," Larkin said. "I've been playing against him since I was probably 12 or 13 and he was always the talk of the rink and the player to watch. I'm excited to see him [Wednesday]. He does everything so well; he skates with the puck at a speed that not many people can do and keep up with. He makes passes that you can't even see, when the guy is coming behind you. You can't check him; he's too shifty. He's a tough player to play against."

Larkin also has been tough to play against this season. He is the first teenager to make the Red Wings' season-opening lineup since Mike Sillinger in 1990-91.

A native of Waterford, Mich., Larkin was selected by the Red Wings with the 15th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft. He had 15 goals and 47 points in 35 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan last season and also played for the United States at the 2015 World Juniors and the 2015 IIHF World Championship.

"One of the reasons he's allowed to step in right away and play is because he has a great 200-foot game," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "A lot of good, young players have to learn how to play defense the right way. How to play a 200-foot game, how to play from the defensive side of the puck, how to not turn pucks over. He seems to have a lot of that already and that's allowed him to be an impactful player. I have tons of confidence and am not scared at all to put him on the ice in any situation."

Larkin is playing left wing on the Red Wings' top line with center Henrik Zetterberg and forward Justin Abdelkader.

McDavid is centering the Oilers' second line, between left wing Benoit Pouliot and right wing Nail Yakupov.

During Edmonton's two-game road trip at the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks last weekend, McDavid had two goals and two assists.

Growing up in Richmond Hill, Ontario, about 240 miles north of Detroit, McDavid said he is looking forward to playing against the Red Wings for the first time.

"They're a team and an organization that had a lot of success over the past decade," McDavid said. "They're certainly a team that I used to follow and it's going to be cool to play against them."

Petr Mrazek will start in goal for the Red Wings, Cam Talbot for the Oilers.

Here are the projected lineups:

RED WINGS

Dylan Larkin - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader

Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist

Darren Helm - Brad Richards - Teemu Pulkkinen

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Landon Ferraro

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyser - Mike Green

Kyle Quincey - Jakub Kindl

Petr Mrazek

Jimmy Howard

Injured: Pavel Datsyuk (ankle), Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms)

Scratched: Brendan Smith, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco

OILERS

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Andrew Miller

Benoit Pouliot - Connor McDavid - Nail Yakupov

Lauri Korpikoski - Anton Lander - Teddy Purcell

Anton Slepyshev - Mark Letestu - Rob Klinkhammer

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Justin Schultz - Oscar Klefbom

Andrew Ference - Eric Gryba

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder), Matt Hendricks (foot), Griffin Reinhart (undisclosed)

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Brandon Davidson

Status report: Miller was recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Monday to replace Hendricks in the lineup. It will be his first game this season; he played nine games for the Oilers last season. … Ference will play his second game of the season, replacing Reinhart. Ference was a healthy scratch in five of the Oilers' first six games.

Who's hot: Larkin has at least one point in all five games. … Zetterberg entered play Wednesday tied for third in the League with nine points. He has at least one point in all five games. … Korpikoski has two goals in his past three games.

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