Last night, the Calgary Flames had their home opener spoiled at the Scotiabank Saddledome via a 4-2 loss at the hands of the hated Vancouver Canucks. Now, 23 1/2 hours later, the Flames have a chance to make themselves feel better by ruining another club’s home opening.
Well, not just any other club. This time they’re facing the team they like beating more than any other team they’ve ever faced.
Tonight’s the first installment of the Battle of Alberta in 2014-15. The Flames technically won the season series in 2013-14, with a 3-2-0 record, but two of the Oilers losses were in overtime, so both teams earned 6 points from their five meetings. But no game was sweeter than the last game between these two clubs – on March 22 – as the Flames kept beating the Oilers until it was 8-1. Curtis Glencross had a hat trick. Matt Stajan scored on a penalty shot. Somebody threw a jersey onto the ice. Taylor Hall accidentally squirted his coach with a water bottle in frustration.
Tonight is Calgary’s return to Shelbyville after delivering that shellacking to the boys in orange and blue. Can they deliver another one tonight and gain some sore-needed points before they head out on a road sojourn I have dubbed The Widowmaker? The puck drops after 7:30pm MT, and you can catch the call on Sportsnet 960 The Fan or on the TV box via Sportsnet 360.
For a view from the other side, check out the OilersNation preview, too.
The Flames had a good third period last night, which is dandy, because they need to be better than they were on the whole. And their power-play needs to be better. Much better.
The team’s lines were reasonably consistent last night. Via Daily Faceoff:
Glencross (A) – Monahan – Hudler
Raymond – Backlund – Bouma
Gaudreau – Colborne – Byron
Bollig – Stajan – McGrattan
Giordano (C) – Brodie
Russell (A) – Engelland
Smid – Wideman
With no dancing bears on the Oilers roster, perhaps we see some changes tonight. Karri Ramo for-sure starts for the Flames. Devin Setoguchi, Raffa Diaz and David Jones were healthy scratches last evening. I wouldn’t mind seeing one or two of these guys rotate in on the bottom line or pairing perhaps tonight. Maybe Diaz for the sake of the power-play?
No guarantees, though. Daily Faceoff will have updates after morning skate. Expect to see a lot of Backlund, Brodie and Giordano up against the Oilers top line. And a lot of Gaudreau, as he was good last night and needs to get his Battle of Alberta feet wet.
UPDATE – Apparently Wideman will be replaced by Diaz and Jones is going in for McGrattan.
It’s a brand new day for the boys up north, hoping desperately that they (a) don’t finish in the draft lottery picks again and/or (b) don’t finish 10 points behind a rebuilding Flames team. On paper, the Oilers are fairly significantly improved. Their goaltending is better than last year for sure. They added some useful players up front and on the blueline.
But on paper, their team has been pretty solid for a few years and it hasn’t materialized into much.
Lines, from our pals at Daily Faceoff:
Hall (A) – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle (A)
Pouliot – Draisaitl – Yakupov
Perron – Arcobello – Purcell
Hendricks – Gordon – Joensuu
Ference (C) – Petry
Nikitin – Fayne
Hunt – Schultz
Pouliot, Draisaitl, Purcell, Hunt, Fayne and Nikitin will be playing their first games for the Oilers tonight, I believe. Scrivens starts in net, while Fasth plays on Saturday night when Edmonton goes to Vancouver. Nikitin historically decimates the Flames so I guess it’s smart that Edmonton signed him. Their defensive group is still no great shakes; I like Andrew Ference a ton, but why is he the first pairing anchor? (Do the Oilers have a “true” first pairing?)
SUM IT UP
Calgary needs points. Badly. Right away. Now.
Because after leaving the friendly confines of Rexall Place, they head to the not-so-friendly United States for games in St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago and Columbus before stopping by Winnipeg on the way home. They already have a notch in their losses column. They will likely have several more after the trip is over.
They need all the wins they can get their hands on, because they will be in short supply. And after a deflating home-opener loss, there’s no better place for that win to come than in Edmonton in the Oilers home opener.