FGD: Slick Oil

The Calgary Flames play round one of the Battle of Alberta tonight, playing host to the Edmonton Oilers for the first time this season (7:30 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).  While the Flames have struggled in getting off to a 1-3 start, the Oilers have kicked their season off with a bang, thanks in large part to their last two number one overall picks.  With how things have gone lately for Calgary, a loss at home to their provincial rivals could have many inching much closer to that panic button.

The Oilers will play the second of a back-to-back set, having beaten Nashville 3-1 at Rexall Place on Monday night.  Calgary hasn’t played since Saturday when they finished off a three game road trip with a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Tonight’s affair starts a suddenly very important stretch for the Flames, as they kick off a six game homestand that carries them through the start of next month.  Looking up at most of the Western Conference pack, this has to be viewed as an opportunity to make some real headway.

The Lineup

Finally some good news on the Calgary injury front, as it looks like Brendan Morrison returns to the lineup tonight after missing all of training camp and the first four games of the regular season recovering from offseason knee surgery.  While in his words he’s not 100% at this point, Morrison feels it’s time to get back on the ice, because he’s ready to go out and contribute.  How quickly he finds his timing and adjusts his pace will be what many will watch early, but I like where he slots in.

Morrison looks to centre the third line tonight between Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque, which is the ideal spot for him this season.  Eventually I believe Lee Stempniak will replace Hagman on this line, but having a Morrison-Bourque duo on a third line playing similar depth on the other side has the potential to be very good for the Flames.  He’s not the only change we’ll see in the lines and pairings.

Alex Tanguay-David Moss-Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross-Olli Jokinen-Lee Stempniak
Niklas Hagman-Brendan Morrison-Rene Bourque
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman

Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
Cory Sarich-Derek Smith

It’s game one for Letourneau-Leblond, as he plays his first game as a member of the Flames.  He’ll enter the lineup in the place of Tom Kostopoulos.  I’m not sure what PL3 brings to this lineup other than the obvious, but we’ll see exactly what his hockey acumen is this evening.  Smith re-enters the lineup in place of Anton Babchuk, perhaps in an effort to match some of Edmonton’s speed up front.

Miikka Kiprusoff gets the start in net, his third consecutive game in net.

The Opponent

A 2-1-1 start for Edmonton has many in the provincial capital excited, and while it pains us all to say it, you can’t help but enjoy watching the Oilers play.  With five points in his first four NHL games, first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seems to have settled the whole "will he or won’t he" debate when it comes to him sticking with the NHL club.  The Red Deer Rebels product has been a lot of fun to watch playing on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Now, to bring things back to reality a little bit, let’s not forget that Head Coach Tom Renney has done a fairly decent job giving his "kid line" the high ground, with the trio having the three highest offensive zone starts among forwards on the team.  That’s not overly surprising, but it’s meant a lot of defensive zone work through four games for the line centred by Shawn Horcoff.

Taylor Hall-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth-Shawn Horcoff-Ryan Jones
Magnus Paajarvi-Eric Belanger-Linus Omark
Ben Eager-Anton Lander-Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid-Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney-Cam Barker
Andy Sutton-Corey Potter

Those defensive pairings aren’t iron clad as the Oilers didn’t skate this morning after playing last night, but Whitney will return to the lineup after recovering from ankle surgery.  With Smid and Gilbert set to stay together, putting Whitney with Barker seems to be the most logical choice.  Sam Gagner seems close to returning but won’t play tonight.

After Nikolai Khabibulin took the win at home to Nashville last night, Devan Dubnyk gets the start in net tonight.

The Story

Can the Flames do the job against the high flying Oilers?  I believe they can, but they can’t get into a game where they start trading chances.  That’s Edmonton’s game, the same way it was Toronto’s game on Saturday night.  However, if Calgary plays the way they did for the majority against Montreal, they likely win this hockey game.

  • TheRealPoc

    I hope his is the first step to the Flames blowing it up, and Feaster sees this young nucleus of talent from the north and goes holy crap and has an epiphony. The Flames don`t have the strength up the middle, nor good enough decent defencemen, or goaltending right now to be concidered elite. It time the Flames stop trying to make the playoffs, and build a team that can do something in it like the Oilers…

    • maddady

      This, so MUCH of this, really, did Feaster not talk with his coaching staff at all, did we just replace Sutter with a much more Jovial(sp?) guy but with the same attitude? He’s gonna sign and trade who he wants and not consult the coaching staff?

      GOTTA TALK TO EACH OTHER PEOPLE!! I can’t see how Sutter gave Babchuk a glowing review to re-sign him in the summer and not play him now, Feaster must have known how terrible Babchuk was.

  • maddady

    I think that the big question is what Flames team shows up tonight. Is it the team that actually listens to what the coach has to say or is it the team that gets trapped into playing whatever way the opposition wants to. I agree that the Oil will be better this year but I don’t think that they will be near a playoff position, not with Khabby and the Doobie as your goal tandem.

  • Vintage Flame

    For the life of me I have no idea why PL3 is playing tonight.. Because of Ben Eager? I doubt Eager is going to want to fight too too badly having just come back from a concussion.

    Flames better take the training wheels off tonight and not get roped into playing this run-and-gun type game with team ‘Ryan”..

    Regardless game one of the BoA.. Live chat with both teams… AND the owner of the site??

    Is anyone going to actually watch this game, or just catch the highlights??

    • everton fc

      Agreed. Didn’t know about Eager’s concussed cranium. Even if he were clear-of-the-cobwebs, why put PL3 on the ice, other than to see what he has to offer with the gloves on?

      No other explanation… Is there?

      Here’s hoping Morrison’s presence has a positive effect. Our defencemen versus the speed of the Oilers 1st line… Scarey.

  • everton fc

    I used to share season tix to the Flames, but have since moved back to Edmonton…as an Oiler fan it wasn’t easy in Calgary, but I grew to respect Iginla and get jealous of the talent they had for years…I have to say the Sutters made some poor decisions over the years and I’m excited to see the Oilers take on my next most-watched team. I am certainly glad Regher isn’t going to be knocking Hall around this year…that guy scared me against the Oilers…but things are getting better here and I have high hopes for them tonight. I hope they aren’t too hungover from last nights big win (Hall supposedly has the flu…my guess is it is a 26-ounce flu as he’s a young guy)…he should recover and be in tonight…I’m hoping.

    GO OILERS!

  • PL3 is in the line-up for two reasons:

    1) We’re playing our provincial rivals, people expect ‘grit’

    2) Hordichuk already threatened to bash our skulls in, so he’s going to need a dance partner

    My prediction: PL3 plays less than 5 minutes, fights Hordichuk, and probably loses. Badly.

    We saw how Kosto got his head pounded in against Mike Brown, LORD KNOWS WE CAN’T HAVE THAT HAPPEN AGAIN! OH NOEZ!!!1

  • xis10ce

    Time for Horak to go down. It’s obvious he’s not ready for the NHL and if he has any hope of becoming anoffensive player he needs a year(probably 2) in the minors.

    I think the Oil will be pumped up for this one so Calgary needs to be careful not to get caught flat-footed. Frankly, I think the Oil have the capability of skating the Flames into the ground so I agree witht the comment about having to slow the game down.

    It may not happen this season, but by next season Edmonton will pass us by. Sad, but true.

    • everton fc

      Thoughts…

      I’m with you on Horak. He’ll be back. He earned to roster spot out of camp. But Meyer gave more last season, with his grit… Than Horak can give in his current, 3rd line role. Hope that made some sense!

      I never posted it here, because I didn’t want to be clobbered… But I think the Oilers, if they stay healthy and get good goaltending, are a 7-8 place team. They’ll be competitive, albeit while experiencing the odd blowout.

      Kosto’s benching… Interesting. When Stempniak moves down tot he third line with Bourque and Morrison (I think when Backlund returns, that’s our fourth line), Hagman takes Kosto’s spot on the fourth line, unless they can move him. He’s earned his roster spot, Hagman. No doubt.

      Does PL3 fight Eager? Maybe.

      Interesting fourht line for the Oilers. Two Scandanavian unknowns. Perhaps the Flames can take advantage of this? You’d think Stajan and Jackman might have a good matchup here. Hagman-Stajan-Jackman will be an interesting 4th when Backlund returns. Could mean waivers for Kosto. But he hasn’t been a liability.

  • icedawg_42

    i’ve been keeping one eye on that team myself. I cant argue that first line is definitely fun to watch. That D still looks like a fire sale at times, but they looked much better during the short bit of the game I got to see last night. I hope that tonight doesnt flip the coin as far as dominance of the BoA. We’ll see.

    • Bob Cobb

      … and now that Whitney is back the defence will be better. The Oilers defence thus far has been better than the Flames, the Oilers have given up 8 goals in 4 games to 14 in 4 for the Flames, and the Oilers D looks like a fire sale at times?
      Really?….How bout you take off the rose colored Flames glasses.

      • icedawg_42

        rose colored glasses? i never at any time said the Flames D looked good. I watched the Oilers play Vancouver, and fire sale is the only way to put it. Thanks.

    • icedawg_42

      The coin is flipped my friend… or definitely tilting toward the Capital city. To old and to tired and the season just started for the Flames. Funny how the article sounds like Morrison is a savior…now thats a bad predicament to be in.

  • joel

    I was looking forward to seeing Horak play again tonight. I don’t think he has done anything magnificent, but I don’t think he has hurt the team at all either. TK sitting doesn’t bother me one bit, I don’t see much value in him at all (unless he is one punching Kevin Bieksa that is).

  • xis10ce

    Edmonton looked REALLY good against Nash last night. Suter/Weber had trouble containing the speed of the kid line, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for Calgary. In general they are a really fast team with a weak back end, but how good does your defence have to be when you spend 75% of the game in the offensive zone right?

    They are no joke and should be taken very seriously. The way to beat this team is lock them down, slow up the play and beat them physically. Calgary needs to do to Edm what Bos did to Van in the playoffs. We can’t have weak turnovers like we did against TO, because if we do, Hall or RNH will probably do the same thing to us that Kessel did.

    Go Flames Go!