The Edmonton Oilers will play their 20th game of the season on Saturday afternoon when they finish up a three-game road trip with a Pacific Division showdown against the Vegas Golden Knights at Las Vegas.
Normally playing the 20th game during an 82-game regular season isn't a big deal. But thanks to the play of Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl this one is.
Draisaitl, who had two goals and two assists in Edmonton's 5-3 victory at Arizona on Wednesday, leads the NHL in points (40), goals (20), power play goals (10), game-winning goals (six) and multiple goal games (eight). He's also the first player to hit the 40-point mark before the 20th game of the season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did it in 1995-96.
But it's Draisaitl's early goal scoring that is even more impressive. With 20 goals in just 19 games, he's on a pace to become the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games, a feat that has been accomplished just eight times in NHL history, including three times by Wayne Gretzky.
"There's lots of fascination with that (statistic) and Leon is finding a way to keep with it, so we'll see where it goes," said Edmonton coach Dave Tippett. "I think it's harder to do today, and Leon is finding a way to keep pace."
The 26-year-old Draisaitl downplayed his 50-50 pace.
"I think it's a little crazy to think I'm going to score 50 goals in 50 games," he said. "Obviously, right now pucks are going in for me, but this is a tough league to score in, so I don't expect to hit that stat at all. I'm going to keep shooting. If they go in, great. But I know there are going to come times where they're probably not going to go in."
Tippett shuffled his lines after a 4-1 loss at Dallas on Tuesday and put Draisaitl on a line with Connor McDavid, who is second in the NHL in scoring with 36 points and ranks among the league-leaders with 14 goals, and Zack Kassian. The line combined for 11 points.
"Obviously, playing with No. 97 (McDavid) makes it a lot easier," said Draisaitl. "There's a lot more free ice with him out there."
Vegas returns home after splitting a short two-game road trip that began with a 5-2 loss at St. Louis and ended with a 5-2 victory at Nashville on Wednesday. That contest marked the return of wingers Max Pacioretty, who missed 17 games with a fractured foot, and William Carrier, who was in COVID protocol.
Pacioretty picked up an assist on an empty-net goal by Mark Stone that sealed the victory over the Predators.
"He's a thoroughbred as players go," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said of Pacioretty, who led the team with 24 goals last season and has scored 306 goals in his career. "He had a non-weight bearing injury that he basically had to stay off of for five weeks so he wasn't allowed to do anything. He's had a week of skating and he jumps in, played 17 minutes, looked really good. Not many guys can do that."
Center Jonathan Marchessault, who leads the Golden Knights with nine goals, returned to practice on Friday after spending 10 days in COVID protocol.
--Field Level Media