The first McEichel game has lost its national television audience.
Weeks ago, NBCSN, NBC’s cable sports network, dropped Tuesday’s game from the First Niagara Center between the National Hockey League’s two top draft choices, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel.
However, the decision to drop the game only recently became apparent.
The Oilers won the first game between the teams, 4-2, on Dec. 6 in Edmonton when McDavid was out with a shoulder injury. The Edmonton-Buffalo rematch, which NBCSN announced it would carry in preseason, will now be carried on MSG.
NBCSN has replaced the Sabres-Oilers game Tuesday with a game featuring two NHL superstars as Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh plays the first place Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin.
The decision makes ratings sense for another reason: The Sabres and the Oilers still are at the bottom of the league standings. Edmonton actually is last in the league with 50 points, while the Sabres are only ahead of three teams.
While the Buffalo TV market gets the highest ratings in the NHL, it is a very small market and the high ratings here don’t translate into large national viewership. The Sabres’ 4-3 loss on Sunday on NBC had a 9.9 local rating on Channel 2, but only a 0.8 national overnight rating.
In addition, Edmonton is a Canadian city and viewership there obviously isn’t rated in the United States.
Fans might wonder why NBCSN wouldn’t want to showcase the two young stars. However, the NFL frequently also doesn’t showcase its top draft picks on Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football because they usually play for teams with lousy records.
Sabre fans do get one consolation prize Tuesday: Play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret will be back after a month-long vacation to call the Edmonton-Sabres game on MSG.