The Edmonton Oilers most likely would've had a tough time getting into the playoff picture even if Connor McDavid had been healthy for the entire season.
His success during the Oilers' late-season surge is sure making the future look awfully bright, though.
Edmonton looks to win for the sixth time in eight games Saturday night when it hosts an Arizona Coyotes team coming off a rare victory.
The 19-year-old McDavid had lofty expectations and many consider him the best talent to come into the NHL since Sidney Crosby, and he got off to a great start with five goals and seven assists over his first 12 games.
He suffered a broken collarbone in his 13th against Philadelphia on Nov. 3, though, and missed the following 37 games before returning Feb. 2. Despite playing in only 33 contests, McDavid is the fifth-leading point scorer for the Oilers (27-36-7) with 14 goals and 21 assists.
McDavid is averaging a point per game over his last seven and scored the winning goal 12:31 into the third period of Thursday's 2-1 victory at Minnesota. With the playoffs all but out of the question, the Oilers have won five of seven following a seven-game skid.
"The guys played a little more loose and it's showing," McDavid said.
Coach Todd McLellan reunited the line of McDavid, Taylor Hall and Zack Kassian, who assisted on McDavid's goal. McLellan praised his young squad for the push it's had at the tail end of a lost season and continues having fun watching McDavid flourish.
"I'm glad I don't have to defend him because I know I wouldn't catch him," McLellan said. "But it's not as much a surprise anymore. Where it's very deceptive is those last three or four strides. When you think you have him he's still pulling away."
Edmonton has dealt with plenty of injuries and now is challenged with overcoming the loss of Darnell Nurse, who will serve the second of a three-game suspension for instigating a fight with San Jose's Roman Polak on Tuesday.
The good news is that center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who hasn't played since Jan. 18 because of a hand injury, has been activated off of injured reserve and is expected to make his return against the Coyotes (29-32-7).
Nugent-Hopkins has eight goals and 22 assists in 46 games, although only one assist came in the three previous meetings with Arizona, which has won two.
Max Domi had a hat trick and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime to give the Coyotes a 4-3 victory in the last matchup Jan. 12. Ekman-Larsson, though, has missed the last two because of an upper-body injury and is still "a couple of days away" from returning, according to coach Dave Tippett.
Arizona had gone 1-8-1 since Feb. 20 before Brad Richardson scored twice in Friday's 4-1 win over Calgary. Boyd Gordon and Antoine Vermette also scored for the Coyotes, whose playoff hopes look dim as they sit nine points back of Colorado for the final wild-card spot with 14 games remaining.
"We kind of know the situation we're in, but we're trying to push, trying to become a better team," Richardson said. "There's a lot of young guys here that are kind of learning their way. These are big games for all of us."
Louis Domingue made 24 saves against the Flames and has a 2.01 goals-against average over his last four, but it's unclear if he'll start both ends of the back-to-back set.
Cam Talbot has been terrific for the Oilers lately, posting a 1.36 GAA over his last eight.