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Eichel vs. McDavid... Delay of Game
by Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell
Showdown of two future superstars will have to wait
This Sunday had been billed as must see TV for Buffalo Sabres fans.
Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the two hot prospects who people have been talking about for years, were all set to face each other on the NHL stage for the very first time. Buffalo and Edmonton, playing at Rexall Place, had all the makings of a media circus and a league-wide sensation.
And why not? Both players are touted as “generational”. Their futures and careers are now completely linked, and comparisons will always be made as long as these two are playing in the same league. Remember too, that the Sabres brain trust and especially General Manager Tim Murray coveted the first overall draft pick and the right to draft McDavid. When that plan went awry on lottery night back in June, the disappointment on the management faces was easily discernable. Murray and his men went into complete spin mode, and evidently did a lot of behind the scenes fence mending with the Eichel camp leading up to the draft later that month.
The frowns weren’t limited to Buffalo’s guys. Edmonton? Edmonton??? McDavid didn’t initially appear all that happy when the lottery outcome was completed.
But the showdown will have to wait.
It all came crashing down, literally, back on November 4, in a game Edmonton was playing against the Philadelphia Flyers, when McDavid went sliding awkwardly into the corner boards. He got up under his power and was nursing his shoulder. The result? A broken left clavicle that would require elaborate medical procedures to repair.
In the scoring race, a statistic which is all but meaningless now, Eichel has 8 goals and 4 assists for 12 points in 24 games, while McDavid had collected those same 12 points on 5 goals and 7 assists, only playing 13 games. During the Sabres’ recent swoon and 6 game losing streak, Eichel has been particularly hard on himself, telling the media he has been pressing to hard and needing to step up his game.
Nonetheless, the goals both these players have scored this season have been pretty and dazzling ones. Neither McDavid nor Eichel score ugly goals. Some have made it to highlight reel shows with more to come.
The night after McDavid’s injury, the Sabres hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning, a dreary 4-1 loss for Buffalo. Nonetheless, Eichel brought the house down again, scoring the lone Sabres goal thanks to a feed pass from Mike Weber and a break on net and wrister that even had the Lightning players shaking their heads.
Following that game, both Eichel and coach Dan Bylsma played down the McDavid injury and any more broad discussions on the two player comparisons, only expressing wishes for a speedy recovery.
And how is that recovery going?
Ahead of schedule, according to reports coming out of Edmonton.
“He’s in the pool he’s lifting weights,” says Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli. “There are no soft tissue injuries, which is important. When you get a break like that, often times there are accompanying soft tissue injuries. That slows down the recovery.”
This past Monday, McDavid told reporters that he isn’t experiencing any pain in his injured collarbone, but also stated that he hasn’t resumed skating. “I’ll let the doctors figure that one out, they’re the smart ones,” McDavid added.
At this point, the hope in Edmonton is that McDavid will be ready to return to the ice in 7-8 weeks, which would put that into late January.
So far, the Oilers are 8-15-2 this season (as of Wednesday), dead last in the NHL Pacific Division, and going through the same rebuild pains that the Sabres are in the middle of. Taylor Hall has been their workhorse on offense and is the team’s leading scorer, but German sensation and top prospect Leon Draisaitl has been on fire since joining the team.
The Eichel vs McDavid dynamic promises an intense rivalry, the magic of skill and athleticism, and hockey at its finest for years to come, with fans already getting a taste of exactly what these two gifted athletes bring to the sport.
Unfortunately, not this Sunday. Nonetheless, still a great opportunity to tune in and get a feel of the conversation going on in Edmonton, a city which is saying good bye to the aging Rexall Place and set to debut at their gleaming new downtown arena, Rogers Place, next season.
Circle your calendar now for Tuesday, March 1. That is the day that Edmonton and Buffalo face each other right here at First Niagara Center. Barring any other injuries or setbacks, we will all be treated to the unveiling of the Connor vs Jack show. It should be a special night.
Props to the operators of the rinks at Canalside, Global Spectrum, for raising the bar on what is becoming an ever more popular attraction in downtown Buffalo, just steps away from the front door of First Niagara Center. But Taro asks...where are the permanent structures? Oceans of snack shacks, fiberglass huts and portable toilets might provide interim solutions to serve the public, but the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation needs to step up their game, and, you know, actually develop.blog comments powered by Disqus
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