CHICAGO — A concussed Leon Draisaitl will miss his third game tonight in Chicago, but is hopeful he can play Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
“Of course I hope to play. There’s no secret to that,” he said after taking the morning skate with the Oilers Thursday. “I’d love to play tonight, but I don’t think that’s safe. My head is the most important thing and I really don’t want to mess around with that.
“I’m starting to feel a lot better. I didn’t feel right for a couple of days and I still feel symptoms here and there, but I’m feeling a lot better from day to day.”
Draisaitl said the injury occurred late in the first period of Edmonton’s 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last Monday, when defenceman Jacob Trouba nailed Draisaitl with a clean, hard body check. Draisaitl played out the rest of the game, but didn’t feel right the next day.
“I know, I know,” he said, when it was inferred that ignoring proper concussion protocol might have not been the best idea. “But so did Drake (Caggiula, who is also concussed). Sometimes it takes a little longer (to detect).
“It was the hit from Trouba. I know it wasn’t a huge hit. It just rung the bell, I guess. I didn’t feel good at the intermission.”
Draisaitl ended up with a mouse under his right eye, which he said arrived the next day.
“It just swelled up,” he said. “Woke up the next morning, swelling went down but black eye stayed, obviously.”
In the offseason, Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million deal that — coupled with Connor McDavid’s new contract that begins next season — makes he and McDavid the cornerstones of this franchise for the next nine seasons. Draisaitl had a goal and two assists in his first three games, and is itching to get back to work on bettering last year’s 77-point campaign.
“I’m not going to play with a concussion. If I had (only) a black eye I would play,” he said. “I’ve never experienced one of these. It’s a weird feeling. I don’t want to rush it. That’s the worst thing to do. It’s an injury you … shouldn’t be messing around with.”
As for his coach, Todd McLellan simply awaits word from the medical staff when the player will be available to him.
“I coach, they train,” McLellan said. “They’ll tell me when he’s ready.”
Matt Benning, who fell ill on Saturday, is regaining his strength but won’t play against the Blackhawks tonight, which means Yohann Auvitu gets his third game as an Oiler.
Kailer Yamamoto will line up as the right-winger on McDavid and Patrick Maroon’s line. It is the 19-year-old’s fifth game. He can only play nine NHL games before a 10th would burn a year on his Entry Level Contract.