Evander Kane
Sabres-Oilers Preview
Evander Kane

Sabres-Oilers Preview

Published Dec. 5, 2015 6:00 p.m. ET

As they anxiously await Connor McDavid's return, Edmonton Oilers fans can at least catch a glimpse of this season's other heralded rookie for one night.

The Oilers try to slow down Jack Eichel and a rejuvenated Buffalo Sabres' offense when the rebuilding teams square off Sunday night.

The anticipated first showdown between the top two picks of the 2015 draft will be delayed as McDavid continues his recovery from a fractured clavicle suffered Nov. 3. The 18-year-old phenom is expected back well ahead of the Oilers' visit to Buffalo on March 1.

Edmonton (10-15-2) lost eight of its first 10 following McDavid's injury but has been better of late, largely due to Anders Nilsson's emergence into the No. 1 goaltender's role.


Nilsson has been terrific in the first two tests of Edmonton's five-game homestand, shutting down two of the league's highest-scoring teams. After making 38 saves in Wednesday's 3-2 shootout victory over Boston, the Swede stopped 42 shots and Jordan Eberle scored 45 seconds into overtime in a 2-1 win over Dallas on Friday.

''If Anders wasn't the first, second and third star, he should have been,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ''It was a hell of a performance. He stole the game.''

Nilsson owns a 1.69 goals-against average while starting seven of the last eight games for Edmonton, seeking its first three-game win streak since it had a healthy McDavid from Oct. 17-21.

''We just want to keep rolling," Eberle said. "We played a good game against Boston and got the points. We didn't play our best (Friday), but we found a way to win.''

Nilsson's next challenge comes from a Sabres' offense that's come to life after struggling for much of November. Buffalo (11-12-3) mustered seven goals during a six-game skid from Nov. 14-25 but has since totaled 17 while going 3-0-1.

''It seems like yesterday we were answering questions on if we're getting frustrated or not, so it's nice to have (some goals),'' forward Sam Reinhart said. ''Once we get a couple, it comes in a wave, and hopefully we can continue for as long as possible and start building up.''

Eichel, taken one spot behind McDavid, is tied for the team lead with eight goals but has just one during a surge that's been led by Reinhart and Evander Kane.

Kane recorded a second straight multigoal effort in Friday's 5-2 home win over Arizona. Reinhart, the 2014 No. 2 overall pick, has three goals in three games since being placed alongside Kane and center Ryan O'Reilly on the top line.

Young defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has stepped up as well, generating 13 points over a 13-game stretch. The Sabres also have received improved goaltending from Chad Johnson, who has won his last three starts while stopping 77 of 81 shots.

Johnson hasn't faced the Oilers since beating them twice while with Boston in 2013-14, turning aside 61 of 63 shots and posting one of his three career shutouts.

Nilsson has won both of his starts against Buffalo, each coming while with the New York Islanders in 2013-14.


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