On October 9, on the second day of the regular season, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers met in their first Battle of Alberta of 2014-15. The season was full of promise for both of them at that point. Since that game – a 5-2 comeback win for the Calgary Flames up at Rexall – the teams have moved in different directions.
Calgary’s win was their first of the season, and they’ve subsequently added an additional 17 triumphs to enter tonight’s game with Edmonton at the Saddledome with a pretty solid 18-15-3 record. The Flames exited the Christmas break a mere two points out of a playoff spot, a massive leap forward for a club that drafted fourth overall last season (even after an eight-game losing streak).
Edmonton’s loss was their first of the season, and they’ve subsequently added an additional 20 setbacks to enter this rematch with Calgary with a 7-21-7 record. Like Calgary, the Oilers are a streaky bunch. Unlike Calgary (until their recent ugly stretch), they’ve been finding ways to both (a) lose in gut-wrenching fashion and (b) extend losing streaks beyond the point of even being funny anymore. They exit the holiday break 20 points out of a playoff spot.
Calgary’s last five wins? December 22, December 4, December 2, November 29 and November 26.
Edmonton’s last five wins? December 7, November 9, November 7, October 27 and October 24.
Ouch. (Both Edmonton’s total number of wins and Calgary’s big, big recent gap.)
In a weird quirk, the Oilers axed coach Dallas Eakins (and brought in GM Craig MacTavish as interim coach) the same week that the Flames extended coach Bob Hartley for what’s reportedly a deal through 2016-17.
The puck drops at 8pm MT and the game can be viewed on CBC (with Rick Ball and Craig Simpson) and heard on Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).
Lines from the December 22nd game versus Los Angeles via Daily Faceoff:
Bob Hartley occasionally put Monahan with Hudler and Gaudreau on that top line, so don’t be surprised if things get shuffled a little bit. Josh Jooris (upper/lower body) missed the LA game due to various injuries, but he’s not on the IR, so he could slot back in. Ladislav Smid, Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett remain out. Most likely Brian McGrattan and Corey Potter are your healthy scratches again.
I would expect Jonas Hiller to get the start given that he won last game.
Lines from the December 23 game vs. Arizona from Daily Faceoff:
I would expect Victor Fasth to get the start, if only because Ben Scrivens took the loss last game.
The Oilers keep shuffling lines, trying to get something going on their end, but so far it’s been akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Oilers should be much, much better than they are on-paper, but for various reasons, they keep wildly under-achieving.
And I don’t know about you, but spending a year on the 30th-best team in the NHL is probably not the best use of the first year of Leon Draisaitl’s entry-level deal.
SUM IT UP
There may be no better metaphor for the Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 season than that first game, a 5-2 loss at home against Calgary. The game began with great promise for the team up north, but somehow it got completely away from them and they couldn’t figure out how to get it under control.
The horses are out of the barn for the 2014-15 season. The Oilers need some positives, in any form. The Flames want nothing more than to string a few wins together and get themselves back into a playoff spot. This is a meeting of two rebuilding teams, each progressing in two completely different speeds – rapid and glacial, respectively – and with two completely different sets of goals.
And it should be a fascinating way to kick off the next section of the National Hockey League schedule for both clubs.
Checkout what they’re saying about tonight over at Oilersnation.