Following last night’s 6-5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid didn’t hold back in his criticism of Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning. The pair were at it all night, and after the game McDavid let the press know why. It was Manning’s check that injured McDavid last season, sending him crashing into the boards and costing the rookie 37 games with a broken collarbone and, according to McDavid, Manning admitted on the ice last night that he did it on purpose. Usually a quiet kid, McDavid was fired up after the game, calling Manning “classless” and saying that the dirty hit “shows what kind of guy he is”. The physical blue liner has since refuted this claim, but McDavid holds that he is telling the truth. He went as far as to say that he regrets standing up for Manning last season when the media blamed him for the injury, but McDavid felt it was an accident.
Playing against star players with increased physicality and sometimes an intent to injure is no stranger to the NHL. The man who would know best, Wayne Gretzky, came to McDavid’s defense on the matter. It’s Gretzky’s opinion that having that competitive fire and willingness to call competitors out is important for a superstar. Gretzky opined that “(McDavid’s) been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.” While off-ice trash talk is usually frowned upon, Gretzky’s philosophy is that a player of McDavid’s caliber needs to be able to keep opponents in check with his comments since he can’t always match up with them physically. Accountability when it comes to intent to injure is important, and a player with McDavid’s persona can help to eliminate dirty play against him on the ice by making it known off the ice.
In tonight’s marquee matchup:
- Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was a surprise scratch from tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the team has revealed that the veteran is dealing with an injury. Apparently, Ericsson could not play due to back spasms and he is currently listed as day-to-day. There has been no word on whether or not this was caused by a recent injury or if it is a chronic issue for the blue liner. Ericsson has looked off at times this season, but has five points already, which puts him well on his way to his career-high 15 points if he can stay healthy.
- Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno was also a surprise scratch from the same game tonight, but he is simply feeling under the weather, according to the team. With Foligno out sick, Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn into the lineup. The 21-year-old has been used sparingly this season, appearing in just three games, after posting eight points and a +6 in 12 games last year. The young winger has plenty of talent, but head coach John Tortorella has been unimpressed with his consistency and effort at times. One of the top-scoring teams in the league does not need more offense right now, so Bjorkstrand will have to work on playing a more complete game if he wants to carve out a role in Columbus.
- Tonight’s game is a special one for Blue Jackets’ rookie sensation Zach Werenski, as it marks his return to Michigan for the first time as a pro. Werenski played two seasons with the University of Michigan Wolverines, scoring 61 points in 71 games. He was also the roommate of Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin when he was a freshman. It’s a homecoming of sorts for the college phenom and future All-Star.