EDMONTON – There's a legitimate question to be asked on this December Sunday: When it comes to opposing MVP-level players, do the Bills or the Sabres have the tougher task today?
The Bills, of course, spent their afternoon chasing Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson around the turf at New Era Field. The Sabres will spend the evening dealing with the dynamic duo of Edmonton's Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in a game that will mark the return of coach Ralph Krueger to Oil Country.
Krueger spent three years here and was the head coach for the 2013 lockout season before he was fired that spring. When Krueger coached Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Draisaitl was the youngest player on his team and was not yet established as an NHL star. Entering the tournament a month away from turning 21, Draisaitl had just 21 goals in his first 109 NHL games to that point.
"It's good to be back in Edmonton. It was strange driving in from the
airport last night, I haven't been here since 2013," Krueger said this morning as he was greeted by about a dozen media members. "It's good to be back
and just really pumped to have this game here. It's a one-off kind of
game, outside of the regular 82-game schedule. I feel the buzz in the
group too with (Sabres assistants) Steve Smith and Myles Fee from the coaching staff back then."
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) December 8, 2019
The NHL scoring leader board: This pretty much tells the story heading into the night. No other words necessary.
Player, Team GP G-A-Pts
Draisaitl, EDM 31 19-34-53
McDavid, EDM 31 19-33-52
MacKinnon, COL 29 18-27-45
Marchand, BOS 30 18-26-44
Pastrnak, BOS 30 25-18-43
Carlson, WAS 31 11-32-43
Eichel, BUF 30 18-23-41
No one else over 35 points
McDavid vs. Buffalo: 7 GP, 3-5-8
Draisaitl vs. Buffalo: 9 GP, 3-3-6
Eichel vs. Edmonton: 7 GP, 5-4-9
McDavid career: 318 GP, 147-277-424
Eichel career: 316 GP, 119-181-300
Draisaitl career: 382 GP, 144-221-365
Krueger on Edmonton's two-headed star: "When you look at what McDavid and Draisaitl are doing here, it's an exciting entertainment value but they're also finding ways to win. They're maturing in a good way, understanding what it takes to finish the games. It will be an excellent clash here."
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 7, 2019
More Eichel numbers: With two assists in Saturday's 6-5 overtime loss in Vancouver, the Buffalo captain extended his point streak to a career-long 12 games. It's the longest active streak in the NHL and the longest by a Sabre since Tim Connolly's 16-gamer in the 2009-10 season. Eichel's assist on Marcus Johansson's tying goal with 58.5 seconds left in regulation was his 300th point in the NHL, a mark only five Sabres have reached faster.
Helping his team gain a point in an OT loss that saw them make a pair of 2-goal comebacks, Jack Eichel hit the 300 point mark in his NHL career- something only 5 on this all-time @BuffaloSabres list have done faster pic.twitter.com/5kq4EACcmo
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) December 8, 2019
In the net: After Carter Hutton dropped his ninth straight Saturday in Vancouver, the Sabres will return to Linus Ullmark in goal tonight. Ullmark is 7-6-2, 2.94/.914 for the season, and 4-3-1, 2.78/.913 in his last eight games. Edmonton has virtually split its duties between Mikko Koskinen and veteran Mike Smith, and Smith (7-7-1, 2.88/.905) is getting the call tonight.
Krueger said the rest of the Sabres' lineup tonight will be revealed at warmup.
#OneBuffalo: The Sabres and Bills are playing on the same day for the third time this season. It happened on Nov. 17 (Bills over Miami, 37-20; Sabres losing to Chicago, 4-1) and Nov. 24 (Bills over Denver, 20-3; Sabres over Florida, 5-2).
Some quality numbers here from the Sabres PR Department: The teams have played on the same date 222 times since the hockey team was born in 1970 and Nov. 24 was just the 50th time they both won on the same day. Overall, the Sabres are 119-69-34 when playing on a Bills game day.