The Edmonton Oilers have won their first two games of the season, and star center Connor McDavid already has a hat trick.
Those two achievements have generated plenty of excitement heading into Tuesday night, when the Anaheim Ducks visit, but the Oilers also are thrilled with the play of a few others.
Jesse Puljujarvi has been skating on the top line with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft has produced two goals and two assists in the first two games.
“You can just see his confidence rising each and every day,” McDavid said.
On the back end, Darnell Nurse continues to lead the way for Edmonton. He already has two assists while averaging more than 30 minutes of ice time per game.
Among those impressed with the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Nurse is new teammate and fellow defenseman Duncan Keith, who joined the Oilers in the offseason after spending his first 16 NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever played with a guy who is as big as (Nurse) is but can skate as well as he can,” Keith said. “And the thing he brings, too, is that element of physicality and meanness. I don’t think that can be forgotten, especially with some of the players we have on our team.”
The Oilers will be up against an Anaheim team that rallied for a 3-2 overtime win against the host Calgary Flames on Monday night, the Ducks’ second victory in three games.
The Ducks trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but Rickard Rakell scored with 7:05 left in regulation to tie the score, and Jamie Drysdale won it with 1:34 left in overtime.
The Ducks were 1-21-2 when trailing after two periods last season.
The comeback win in the opener of the four-game road trip was especially welcome after the Ducks gave up the go-ahead goal with 7.2 seconds left in the third period of a 2-1 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild on Friday night.
“It feels real good to get out of that one with a win,” Drysdale said of the Monday contest. “I think it’ll push us in the right direction moving forward on this trip.”
A key for Anaheim’s early success this season has been its special teams.
The Ducks are 12-for-13 on the penalty kill and 4-for-11 on the power play.
Anaheim finished last in the NHL in power-play efficiency last season at 8.9 percent.
The Ducks might need to replace two key players against the Oilers, however.
Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm limped to the locker room after blocking a shot during a power play late in the third period against Calgary, and rookie forward Mason McTavish left earlier in the game with a lower-body injury and did not return.
Edmonton coach Dave Tippett said he plans to start Mike Smith in goal for the third straight game.
Smith, 39, allowed two goals in each of the first two wins while stopping a total of 81 shots. He is 16-11-4 in his career against the Ducks with a 2.44 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
Oilers forward Devin Shore, who played 73 games for the Ducks during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, missed the first two games with an undisclosed injury, but he could make his season debut after practicing in full on Monday.
–Field Level Media