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The Inside Scoop: Game Day (Pens vs. Oilers)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The showdown that wasn’t.

Tonight’s game was supposed to be the first of many between two generational talents with Sidney Crosby, the face of the NHL over the past decade, facing Connor McDavid, the rookie sensation and billed next great player.

However, McDavid fractured his left clavicle on Tuesday night against Philadelphia and is out indefinitely.

Although the Pens won’t face McDavid, the Oilers are still a team stacked with skill and talent from years of blue chip draft picks. The trio of Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have combined for 20 points (7G-13A) in the past 3 games for the Oilers, although it appears that line will be split up with the return of Jordan Eberle.

The Pens are riding a five-game winning streak into Edmonton and have been victorious in eight of their last nine games.

The Pens will start backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff tonight against the Oilers.

“I’m excited to play,” Zatkoff said. “The schedule in the first month didn’t have too many back-to-backs and wasn’t too hard. So it’s nice to get back in after a week off and get a chance to play.”

Zatkoff played his first game of the season last week in a 4-3 win against Buffalo in which he stopped 50 shots.

“I want to build on that start, especially my second and third periods,” Zatkoff said. “The more you play, the more comfortable you get. I’ve been (in Edmonton) before and played in this building before so I’m comfortable.”

Pens winger David Perron scored his first goal of the season on Wednesday night in Vancouver. Perron, who played one-plus seasons in Edmonton before being acquired by the Pens, scored goals in both games against the Oilers last season, totaling three points (2G-1A).

“It was good to get that first one,” Perron said. “Hopefully there are more to come.”

Perron looked at videos of his past goals to not only to help build his confidence, but also to watch the details of his game, and make sure he is doing the right things.

“Just seeing yourself score and the emotion that you have,” Perron said. “Sometimes you have to do a little bit more. You think you’re doing a lot, but you still have to do more. That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately. I’m happy with the way I’m playing lately so I want to keep doing that.”

The Pens’ penalty killing unit has been on quite a run lately. They’ve successfully killed off 27 of the last 28 times shorthanded, including 17 straight. They’ve been so dominant that they’ve climbed to third in the NHL with an 89.7 success rate, on the heels of Montreal’s 89.8.

“We are working really well as tandems and four-man units,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “You’re looking at guys like Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr, it’s good to have him back in the lineup.”

The addition of Eric Fehr has not only boosted their killing success, but also the offensive aspect of the PK. Fehr has scored a shorthanded goal in each of his first two games with the Pens, becoming the first player in NHL history to do so.

The Pens held an optional morning skate. Quite a few players took the option to stay off the ice: Sidney Crosby; Pascal Dupuis; Patric Hornqvist; Phil Kessel; Evgeni Malkin; and Rob Scuderi.

*Evgeni Malkin will play in his 600th NHL game
*Ian Cole will play in his 200th NHL game

The Oilers do not have Connor McDavid for the foreseeable future. Tonight will be their first game without the franchise star. But they will get some help up front with the return of Jordan Eberle, who missed the team’s first 13 games with a shoulder injury.

“I’m not going to ease myself into the game,” Eberle said. “I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can. I think I’m pretty close to 100 percent and ready to go. The biggest thing will be timing.”

Eberle skated with Hall and Draisaitl at Thursday’s practice according to Which would mean breaking up the very dangerous line of Hall-Draisaitl-Nugent-Hopkins.

“For me to get on a line with those guys who are already going I’m just trying to get the puck to them and find areas to get it back,” Eberle said. “I’ve played with Hall quite a bit. I know how he plays. I know how to adjust my game. Leon I’ve played with a lot. He’s very similar to me.”

Where: Rexall Place
When: 9 p.m.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network
Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop
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