McDavid has first practice with Oilers since coming off COVID-19 protocol

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EDMONTON — Connor McDavid practiced with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday for the first time since being removed from NHL COVID-19 protocol Sunday.

The center is expected to play against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. The Edmonton captain entered COVID-19 protocol Jan. 5 and did not play in 4-2 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs that night.

“Truth is, I think my worst day was the game day [at Toronto],” McDavid said. “I was just a little achey and just a stuffy nose, nothing too crazy. I feel good now.”

The center has scored 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists) in 33 games and is tied for the NHL scoring lead with Oilers teammate, center Leon Draisaitl (26 goals, 27 assists in 34 games).

Edmonton was scheduled to host Ottawa on Monday but the game was moved to Saturday after five players and six members of the Oilers support staff were placed in protocol on Jan. 8. McDavid was expected to practice Sunday before the workout was canceled and play Monday.

Oilers forwards Kyle Turris, Warren Foegele, Tyler Benson, Brendan Perlini, Kailer Yamamoto, and defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Evan Bouchard remain in COVID-19 protocol, which caused Edmonton to practice with 15 skaters and two goalies Wednesday.

“I actually liked it, I thought the practice was good,” McDavid said. “We got up and down the ice and battled against each other, which I thought was good and something that’s necessary when we’re only going to play one game in 15 days. These practices are big for us, we have to go hard at each other, we have to play each other as close to gamelike as we can, and get ourselves prepared and ready to go.”

Edmonton also had home games against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday, a road game at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, and a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 18 postponed because of attendance restrictions in Canada cities.

Following the game Saturday against the Senators, the Oilers’ next scheduled game is at home against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 20.

“It’s frustrating, but lots of teams have gone through it,” McDavid said. “It’s not easy to keep yourself in game shape only playing a couple of games in the last month. We’re doing the best that we can and these practices are big here.

“We have two more [practices] to go before Ottawa and three more to go after that until our next game. We have to keep ourselves up and ready to go and practice hard with each other.”

Edmonton (18-14-2) is sixth in the Pacific Division and 2-9-2 in its past 13 games.

“Honestly, you’re not looking to get COVID, but it’s almost a mental break when you come out of the protocol, because you don’t have to test any more,” McDavid said. “It’s exhausting to sit and wait to hear on your test results from the night before and you’re trying to get ready for the game but you don’t know if you’re going to play.

“So it’s been crazy times, and I think our doctors and our medical team have done such a good job of handling it. I know it’s stressful for them more than anybody, but they’ve done an amazing job and we’re trying to get through this and trying to get back to a little normality hopefully in the next little while.”

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