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Wayne Gretzky gets why Oilers' Connor McDavid feels targeted

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long during a 6-5 Edmonton loss Thursday. Afterward, McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season. McDavid missed 37 games last winter with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire from McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. Gretzky also said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL, and he's always responded and done his part."

Manning, for his part, said he didn't target McDavid.

"I think anybody who knows me, or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.