National Hockey League
Oilers-Sabres Preview
National Hockey League

Oilers-Sabres Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 1:30 p.m. ET

The Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers spent the trade deadline tweaking their rosters amidst largely disappointing seasons, but the future of each franchise will meet on the ice this week.

The top two picks of the June draft clash for the first time on Tuesday night when Connor McDavid and the Oilers visit Jack Eichel and the Sabres.

The teams already played this season with Edmonton (23-34-7) earning a 4-2 home win on Dec. 6 despite an Eichel goal for Buffalo (25-31-7), but that was about a month into the top pick McDavid's three-month recovery from a fractured left clavicle.

McDavid, though, has played all of February and will finally meet his highly-touted 19-year-old rookie counterpart at First Niagara Center. Eichel is third in rookie scoring with 17 goals and 41 points in 63 games behind Chicago's Artemi Panarin (22 goals, 57 points) and Arizona's Max Domi (17 goals, 42 points), while McDavid is ninth with 10 goals and 29 points in 27 games.


"For me, it's more of a bigger game because I have some family coming, some buddies coming in from Erie, so I'm more excited about the game from that sense," McDavid said. "I'm sure it's going to be pretty well-covered (by media), I think everyone expects that. I think for the both of us, it's just another game."

Despite the added punch this season from their top picks, the Sabres and Oilers are trudging through miserable offensive seasons.

Putting the puck in the back of the net has been Buffalo's Achilles heel this decade with four of the team's five lowest-scoring seasons coming in the last five years: 2.46 in 2012-13, 1.83 in 2013-14, 1.87 in 2014-15 and 2.32 in 2015-16.

This season's mark ranks in the bottom three of the NHL and is on pace to tie the third-worst mark in franchise history with the 2002-03 club.

After matching a season-high four-game point streak (3-0-1) from Feb. 12-19, the Sabres have lost three of four and have been shut out in two of their last three - giving them six scoreless games this season.

Three nights after a 1-0 loss at Anaheim, Buffalo closed a three-game road trip with Saturday's 2-0 defeat in Los Angeles. The Sabres failed to score on seven power-play chances on their trip and are 3 for 28 in the last nine games.

"Without a question, I think we haven't been able to establish any offensive presence with the power play," coach Dan Bylsma told the team's official website. "It's been a draining factor for our team."

Robin Lehner suffered the tough-luck losses in Buffalo's two shutout defeats last week, despite making 61 saves while surrendering only three goals between them.

The Sabres have scored twice in each contest of a three-game skid against the Oilers.

Edmonton, though, is almost as offensively challenged. The Oilers scored 11 goals during an 0-5-2 skid from Feb. 13-26 before snapping it with Sunday's 3-1 win over the New York Islanders. Cam Talbot made 36 saves, improving his save percentage to .953 his last three starts.

The Oilers now open a four-game road trip, hoping to improve on their league-worst 2.03 scoring average away from home. Edmonton has lost five straight road contests, dropping its NHL-worst road record to 7-20-5, but Buffalo owns the league's worst home mark at 11-17-3.

Hence, each team's selling status at the trade deadline. After departing with goaltender Anders Nilsson, defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Teddy Purcell on Saturday, Edmonton acquired forward Patrick Maroon from the Ducks Monday in exchange for a 2016 fourth-round draft pick and defenseman Martin Gernat.

Buffalo traded Jamie McGinn to Anaheim for a conditional third-round pick. McGinn ranked fifth on the team with 14 goals and 27 points.


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