It's uncertain if this season could have gone better for the Edmonton Oilers had Connor McDavid not missed significant time with a broken clavicle suffered at Philadelphia in November.
Four months to the day of that injury, McDavid and the visiting Oilers again face the Flyers while looking for a third consecutive victory Thursday night.
McDavid, the 2015 top overall pick, was hurt when he fell awkwardly and was then ridden hard into the boards late in the second period of Edmonton's 4-2 win over Philadelphia (29-22-11) on Nov. 3. Last in the Western Conference, the Oilers (24-34-7) went 14-18-5 while their young star was sidelined.
That record is actually slightly better than the club's 10-16-2 effort with McDavid, and last-place Edmonton has gone 5-8-2 since he returned Feb. 2, averaging just 1.9 goals in the last 13 contests. However, McDavid has recorded 19 of his 31 points in those 15 games and was named NHL rookie of the month for February.
The center appears poised to carry that success over to March after scoring twice in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime victory at Buffalo, a much-anticipated matchup with second overall pick Jack Eichel.
"He's so fast and pushes defenders back," teammate Jordan Eberle told the Oilers' official website of McDavid. "He's able to make a lot of plays that maybe a lot of us can't."
The Flyers didn't see much of that in the first meeting, with McDavid taking two shots and posting a minus-1 rating over 11 minutes.
Though it's unknown how McDavid will approach facing the team he was injured against, his primary focus is to help the Oilers win three in a row for the first time since a season-high six-game run Dec. 2-14. The only other time Edmonton won two straight road games this season was Oct. 17-18.
"It's important for us, in this next month, to keep having something to play for," McDavid said.
Ninth in the East and three points out of the final playoff spot, Philadelphia has much more to play for the rest of the way. The Flyers have earned at least one point in six of seven and are undefeated halfway through a season-high six-game homestand.
''We've got a steep hill for us to climb in order to push back into the playoffs,'' said coach Dave Hakstol, whose club has twice won four straight this season. "(But) this group is pretty strong in the locker room; they're a pretty tight group."
Brayden Schenn recorded his first career hat trick and Claude Giroux had four assists in Monday's 5-3 win over Calgary. Philadelphia has averaged 3.7 goals in the past seven and is 4 for 8 on the power play in the last three.
"When the whole team is on the same page it just makes everybody's (job) much easier," Giroux told the Flyers' official website. "Right now we're playing some good hockey 'cause we're playing hard. We're playing the right way. We need to keep playing like this."
Schenn, whose final goal Tuesday was his career-high 21st, has six points on the homestand.
"He's got that talent to be able to score goals from everywhere," Giroux said. "He's a smart player and he's getting better and better every day."
Giroux and Schenn were held without a point in the loss at Edmonton.
The Oilers have totaled four goals during a three-game losing streak at Philadelphia.