Ahh yes, the old Battle of Alberta thing that has one city snoring. While we have seen one lopsided battle involving the Calgary Flames undergo a mild reversal of fortunes this season (two straight Flames wins over Vancouver), there’s nothing saying Calgary’s rivalry with Edmonton is primed to do the same thing. The Flames have won nine straight games against the Edmonton Oilers heading into this season’s fifth round of battle (7 pm, Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960).
Again, there’s nothing saying a reversal of fortune couldn’t happen in this season series, but from what we’ve seen the last nine games, the Oilers just don’t beat the Flames. Whether they stake themselves to a 4-1 third period lead, score two early goals in the first period, come from three goals down to force a shootout, or anywhere else along the line…Edmonton just loses. The last meeting was about as far from close as they come, however, with the Flames taking a 6-2 win at Rexall Place on January 21st.
The Flames will go with the same lineup they’ve gone with the last little bit, with Paul Byron and Lance Bouma seemingly switching spots, at least during line rushes yesterday. The team didn’t have a full skate this morning, instead opting to go with an optional skate. Otherwise, things remain the same up front and on the back end.
Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla
Tom Kostopoulos-Mike Cammalleri-Blake Comeau
Paul Byron-Roman Horak-Krys Kolanos
Lance Bouma-Matt Stajan-Tim Jackman
Jay Bouwmeester-Chris Butler
Mark Giordano-Scott Hannan
T.J. Brodie-Cory Sarich
Good news had both Curtis Glencross and Derek Smith skating with the rest of the group this morning, the first time they’ve been on the ice with teammates since their injuries. The feeling is Smith could be back as early as Monday while Glencross is still looking like an early March return. Still, it’s good news.
The injury situation keeps getting worse for Edmonton, as they’ve now lost Nikolai Khabibulin for at least the next week with a sore groin. The main key to early season Oilers success has regressed to what we thought he might be in recent months, and now gives way for Devan Dubnyk as the number one guy for the next few games. Neither have lit the world on fire and neither should be stealing anything tonight. These are just projected lines, as Edmonton didn’t do rushes this morning, however Hall told me he’s play with Horcoff and Hemsky. The rest come from talking with the Oilers media horde down here.
Taylor Hall-Shawn Horcoff-Ales Hemsky
Magnus Paajarvi-Sam Gagner-Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth-Eric Belanger-Ben Eager
Darcy Hordichuk-Anton Lander-Lennart Petrell
Ladislav Smid-Tom Gilbert
Ryan Whitney-Jeff Petry
Andy Sutton-Corey Potter
In terms of skaters, that’s about as healthy as it’s been all year for the Oilers. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins remains out of the lineup for the time being, sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury for the second time this season. Theo Peckham is missing on the blueline, as Potter makes his return tonight. Hordichuk enters, Ryan Jones exits tonight.
Sniff. This might be the last time us Calgary fans get to see Ales Hemsky at the Saddledome in blue and orange. The chronically injured winger continues to leave Oilers fans wanting more, and for good reason. He’s an effective top six forward when full strength, but that just isn’t anywhere near often enough. With an expiring contract, Hemsky’s Edmonton days appear to be numbered; but then again, we said that at this time last year too.
For the Flames, there is zero excuse to lose this hockey game. Riding an impressive eight game point streak, Calgary has risen to a Western Conference playoff position for the first time this season yet have no time to rest on their laurels. As bad as LA has been of late, they aren’t going anywhere in this race and will likely take advantage of any Flames lull. The same can likely be said about a few other teams in this race, so with much tougher games against Phoenix, Philly, and St. Louis coming on this four game homestand, a loss against Edmonton to kick it off falls under the "unacceptable" category.