Preview: Oilers at Sabres
Connor McDavid has more than lived up to the hype since he was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the top overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and the same holds true for Jack Eichel, taken at No. 2 by the Buffalo Sabres that same year. McDavid and Eichel will be under the spotlight again when the Oilers visit the Sabres on Thursday night.
Despite a quiet night from McDavid, the NHL's leading scorer, Edmonton put on an offensive show before nearly blowing all of a six-goal lead in Tuesday's 7-5 home win over the New York Rangers. "We'll refocus, and moving forward we have a great road trip to start off the New Year," forward James Neal said of Edmonton's upcoming five-game trek. "Take the two points, take the positives, and we'll go." Buffalo also frittered away a big lead on Tuesday night, tumbling to its fourth straight defeat after failing to protect a three-goal cushion in a 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay. "When they slip away, it's frustrating, and it's tough," Sabres forward Marcus Johansson said. "We've just got to learn from it and put it behind us, and get back to how we started the game. Keep building off that."
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: Sportsnet West (Edmonton), MSG-Buffalo
ABOUT THE OILERS (21-17-4): Neal had scored at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 seasons before he was limited to seven tallies in 63 games with Calgary in 2018-19, but he has rediscovered his touch with Edmonton. Neal registered a hat trick as part of a four-point output in Tuesday's win, moving within one goal of reaching 20 again. "He's at 19 goals, and if you would've said at the start of the year he'd have 19 goals at the halfway mark, you'd probably like that. He's in a good place," coach Dave Tippett said.
ABOUT THE SABRES (17-17-7): Eichel moved within three of his career high with his 25th goal of the season and first-ever short-handed tally in Tuesday's loss. However, Buffalo continues to sputter on the power play and has failed to convert on its last 14 opportunities with the extra skater. "Same story, nothing new. Obviously we gotta score on our power play and gotta keep the puck out of the net on the PK," Eichel said. "It's not the PK at this point, it's the power play, so we've got to find a way to change that."
1. McDavid has points in four straight overall and three goals and five assists in eight games versus Buffalo.
2. Eichel has five goals and 10 points versus Edmonton after collecting an assist in a 3-2 win on Dec. 8.
3. Oilers F Leon Draisaitl scored his team-high 23rd goal Tuesday to remain two points behind McDavid in the league scoring race.
PREDICTION: Oilers 4, Sabres 3