NHL Hockey

Oilers eye return of Kassian as Sabres visit

The Edmonton Oilers hope to have their top line reunited when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

Right winger Zack Kassian was back skating with center Connor McDavid and left winger Leon Draisaitl at practice Saturday. Kassian has missed the past three games with a back injury.

"It's only been three games, but it seems way longer than that," Kassian told the team's website. "It's not fun to be out. So I'm excited to be back, and hopefully I can give the team a boost."

Draisaitl leads the NHL with 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists), one point ahead of McDavid (19 goals, 33 assists).

"With Kassian coming in, that allows us to put that line back together," Oilers coach Dave Tippett said. "So Kass' presence is a big presence for those guys."

The Oilers also hope to have second-line center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back after he missed six games with a hand injury.

With both Kassian and Nugent-Hopkins out, Tippett split up Draisaitl and McDavid.

"Nuge is significant because we need that depth at center," Tippett said. "He's a guy that plays in all situations and is just smart in all situations. He makes other players around him better, so that allows us to put Draisaitl back with McDavid."

Edmonton defeated Los Angeles 2-1 at home on Friday to even its record at 1-1 on its four-game homestand. The Oilers lost 5-2 to lowly Ottawa last Wednesday.

"We have to learn about that Ottawa game," Edmonton goaltender Mikko Koskinen said. "We have to be better now and keep building. Win after win. That's how the good teams are doing it, and now we have seen the ability to bounce back. But we need to keep winning."

Buffalo got a boost Saturday with the return of forward Kyle Okposo, who had missed 10 consecutive games because of a concussion, in a 6-5 overtime loss at Vancouver.

The Sabres, who wrap up their three-game Western Canada swing in Edmonton, rallied from 2-0, 3-2, and 5-3 deficits Saturday, forcing overtime on Marcus Johansson's goal with 58.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

"It's a big point," Okposo said. "... We could have wilted, but we didn't. We found a way to tie the game and get a point. Obviously, we would have liked to get a second one, that's disappointing. But I liked the way we fought back, and that's a huge point."

The Sabres' Jack Eichel, who had two assists to extend his point streak to 12 games (10 goals, 12 assists), appeared to win it at 2:09 of overtime, but teammate Henri Jokiharju was called for interference on the play.

Buffalo coach Ralph Krueger said he understood the penalty, on which Vancouver's Jake Virtanen fell over Jokiharju's stick.

"I can understand the call because of it being literally a breakaway out of it," Krueger said. "It was definitely not intentional. Joki wasn't even looking in that direction, so in a normal moment of the game that might not get called. But I think in a three-on-three overtime when it leads to a breakaway, you can see both sides of it, and you just have to swallow it down."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 8, 2019

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2021 by STATS PERFORM.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS PERFROM is strictly prohibited.