The Edmonton Oilers’ highly anticipated two-game series into Florida starts on Thursday in Tampa, but fans in the Sunshine State won’t get to see hockey’s most electric superstar.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton’s dazzling, high-scoring speedster, is sidelined for 2-3 weeks with a quadriceps injury sustained Saturday in the Oilers’ 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
The McDavid-less Oilers will square off against the red-hot Lightning in downtown Tampa, where the reigning President Cup Trophy winners have won their last eight contests.
Leon Draisaitl tops the NHL with 89 points (32 goals, 57 assists) in 56 games — eight more than McDavid — and the club will turn to the German forward to pick up the production with the famous No. 97 parked in the press box instead of blazing down the ice.
The Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 Tuesday in their first game without McDavid, with Draisaitl stepping up with a four-point game — a goal and three assists — as Edmonton won for the 10th time in its last 15 games (10-3-2).
General manager Ken Holland assessed McDavid’s expected rehabilitation with a few words that echoed much of the sentiments around the province of Alberta: “We’re hoping less than that.”
The Lightning recorded their second consecutive overtime road win on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh — a 2-1 victory over the Penguins one night after winger Nikita Kucherov’s game-winner beat the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Earning a pair of road wins over Metropolitan Division teams currently occupying playoff spots was not something that Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was going to overlook.
“This is a tough league to win in, especially against a team as talented as that,” Cooper told reporters of the Penguins. “That was one of the guttier (victories) I’ve seen.”
Tampa Bay won both games by playing a gritty game that is more along the style of postseason play. The Lightning also skated for the second time without captain Steven Stamkos, who is dealing with a lower-body injury and was replaced in the lineup by right wing Mathieu Joseph.
Despite the grueling road schedule and lineup change from superstar to AHL call-up, one point remained constant: The Lightning just keep winning.
The victory in Western Pennsylvania was Tampa Bay’s eighth straight and upped its record to 20-2-1 in its past 23 matches. The Lightning also improved to 19-8-3 on the road, and Tampa Bay swept the season series from the Penguins for the fifth time in franchise history.
Top goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy returned in goal after getting the night off in Columbus and recorded 35 saves against the Penguins to register his league-leading 30th win. He also extended his point streak to 19 games (17-0-2).
Offensively, Kucherov assisted on the team’s first goal — Mikhail Sergachev’s ninth marker — and Brayden Point fed Yanni Gourde for the winner on a short three-on-two rush after Point skated in from in front of the benches as Pittsburgh defenseman Marcus Pettersson went off for a line change.
Kucherov has 21 points over a 12-game point streak — 10 goals and 11 assists — and Gourde’s tally broke a 35-game goal drought.
However, the news wasn’t all good as Kucherov left in the second period after colliding with Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson, and forward Anthony Cirelli was injured in the first period — both not returning due to lower-body injuries.
Their availability for Thursday has not yet been announced.
–Field Level Media