<span class="vcard">Jason Brough</span>

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

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    Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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    While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

    Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

    Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
    Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
    Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

    The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

    So, where is Krejci’s game now?

    Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

    So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

    On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

    So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

    “It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

    Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’

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    Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

    Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

    This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

    “I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

    While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

    And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

    Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

    In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

    Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

    Torres apologizes to Silfverberg and Sharks

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    A statement from Raffi Torres:

    “I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”

    A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:

    “The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”

    Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.

    All of a sudden the Canucks aren’t so slow

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    For Vancouver GM Jim Benning, it became clear early last season that speed was an issue for his team.

    Specifically, the Canucks didn’t have enough of it.

    And that’s a pretty big problem in today’s NHL.

    Fast forward to when Vancouver was eliminated by Calgary in the first round of the playoffs and it was the Flames’ ability to “get in on the forecheck” (an oft-used phrase by Benning) that proved a deciding factor.

    And so Benning made changes. He traded aging defender Kevin Bieksa and slow-footed forward Nick Bonino. He acquired Matt Bartkowski, an excellent skater, and Brandon Sutter, also a good skater.

    But most importantly, Benning committed to a younger roster. Last night in Calgary, the Canucks earned a 5-1 victory with a lineup that featured Sven Baertschi, 23, Ben Hutton, 22, Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19.

    All four can skate.

    So can Jake Virtanen, 19, who was a healthy scratch.

    Add Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett, arguably their fastest veteran skaters, to the equation and all of a sudden Vancouver didn’t look so slow anymore.

    “The Canucks were much better than us,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “We got what we deserved. They kicked our butts.”

    Granted, it was only the first of 82 games. Who knows if kids like McCann and Hutton can maintain their level of play for an entire season.

    But last night?

    That wasn’t the same Vancouver team as last year.

    Benning made sure of that.