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PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Sabres

In the Boston Pizza Preview, the Oilers return home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at 5:00 PM MDT

by Meg Tilley and Marc Ciampa / EdmontonOilers.com

Video: OILERS TODAY | Oilers vs. Sabres Preview

The Oilers return home after a successful 2-0 start against their provincial rivals from Calgary with their first Eastern Conference match-up of the season.

Buffalo is 0-1 after losing 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens in their season opener.  

The game can be seen on Sportsnet One across Canada beginning at 5:00 PM MDT. 

Read our game preview and check back here regularly throughout Sunday as we'll be adding interviews, quotes, breaking news and more. 

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Sunday's Oilers media availability plus coverage of Saturday's practice on the heels of the team's win in Calgary Friday night.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers aren't prepared to break the pace in their momentum.

After a clean Battle of Alberta sweep on Wednesday night at home with a 7-4 win over the Flames, Edmonton followed up with a 5-3 comeback victory Friday night on Calgary turf, taking the first two of four matchups this season.

Starting off the 2016-17 season with a 2-0-0 record, Oilers forward Milan Lucic said the team is pleased with the jump but need to continue to put their foot on the gas to achieve their ultimate end-goal.

"It's great that we're able to win both games to start off the season," said Lucic. "I think, if you look at last night's game, the positives that you can really take out of it is the way we played in the last two periods. I think we only gave up 11 shots and limited them to one goal after that first period and that's the way we've got to play if we want to have success.

"Obviously, there's still 80 games left. There's still a lot to improve on, there's still a lot we can get better at, but in saying that it's nice to start off the season up two games."

Even in areas where there is room for improvement, Oilers Captain Connor McDavid is pleased with the progress he sees the team making.

"We're doing some good stuff," he said. "Offensively, we've been good, I know we're generating a lot of chances. We've still got to tighten up defensively though. We gave up a lot of shots last night, especially in the first period. We did a good job in making some adjustments and got back to our game, so that's a good sign, but we still need to tighten it up."

EICHEL AND THE SABRES

It's going to be a different game for the Oilers when they face the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night.

The usual and expected excitement that surrounds the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel faceoff - the number one and number two pick of the 2015 NHL Draft - won't be as prevalent Sunday evening as many fans may have hoped. 

"I feel for Jack," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's a great kid and a tremendous player."

McLellan, who had time to get to know and coach the young Buffalo forward when he suited up for Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.

"I really enjoyed my time with him at the World Cup, it was special. You could see all the talent and the enthusiasm he has for the game," said the Oilers bench boss.

"As an NHL entity, as the whole, as entertainers, you really feel sorry for some of these guys that are getting injured, as Connor was last year, because the losers in it all are the fans, and certainly the Buffalo fans are going to miss him at home and so will his teammates. It happens, it takes a real strong mental approach, as Connor had last year, to overcome that type of thing but knowing Jack, at least for a month, I think he'll have the tools to overcome it quickly."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Patrick MaroonEichel, who is expected to sport a walking boot on his left foot for the next 10 days, sustained a high-ankle sprain on Wednesday morning after falling awkwardly during practice, sidelining him anywhere from one month to six weeks.

"It's not fun, it's really hard," said McDavid, who understands what the Sabres centreman is going through. 

"It's hard mentally more than it is physically, honestly. The injury heels but mentally it's tough to stay there. Ultimately it's just about being ready and coming back and being at the top of your game and not skipping a beat, I think that's the main thing. It's a few things, it's a credit to the doctors who are working with and the team around you that's working on you to get better but it's also yourself and keeping yourself in shape. It's hard to do that. You're looking at two months, a month, it's hard to stay focused like that but it's obviously important."

Eichel won't be the only Sabre not in the lineup Sunday night.

Buffalo forward Evander Kane cracked three ribs in Thursday's season opener and is out indefinitely. Kane was hurt when he crashed into the end boards during the second period of Buffalo's 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

As a result, the Oilers may see a new face in the opposing lineup as Buffalo announced today that the team recalled forward Nicholas Baptiste from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

The 6-foot-1 forward recorded a goal and an assist in Rochester's season-opener Friday night against the Hershey Bears. The Ottawa, Ontario native tallied two points (1G, 1A) in two pre-season games with the Sabres in September.

But regardless of who takes the ice for the Sabres Sunday, Lucic said the focus for the Oilers will be on their own performance.

"No matter who they have in their lineup our focus needs to be on ourselves and what we need to do and what we need to keep improving on," he said.

"Obviously, it's the NHL. Sometimes it's harder to play when guys are getting a chance to play and proving themselves in this league. We definitely can't take that team lightly, no matter who's in the lineup. We just have to focus on our game and keep improving on that."

-- Meg Tilley, edmontonoilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (2-0-0) vs. SABRES (0-1-0)

TV: 5:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet One

Oilers team scope: Edmonton has gotten off to an explosive start to the season with 12 goals in their first two games. It took the team five games to net 12 goals last year. Leading the way, of course, is Connor McDavid who leads the League with six points. ... Leon Draisaitl has two goals and two assists for four points and Kris Russell has three assists to help lead the Oilers attack. 

Sabres team scope: Buffalo has only played one game, and only scored one goal. That goal was scored by Matt Moulson against Montreal. ... Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen assisted on that goal. ... Jack Eichel was injured prior to the team's first game and is out for quite some time with a high ankle sprain. Evander Kane is also out for awhile with broken ribs. The Sabres will need to rely on their secondary scoring to pick up the slack.  

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com

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