And so we meet again.
Just two weeks after being embarrassed on home ice by their most bitter historical rival, the Calgary Flames travel up Highway 2 to Alberta’s capital city to do battle with the Edmonton Oilers.
Both teams are coming off games with the vaunted Montreal Canadiens. Edmonton delivered a heart-breaking loss to Les Habitants on Thursday night, rallying back from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3. The Flames kept up for part of Friday’s game, but ended up getting trounced 6-2 by Montreal. The Flames enter tonight with a 2-8-1 record, while the Oilers are 4-7-0. It’s a big game for a Calgary Flames team desperately needing an emotional lift after winning just once in their past nine games (1-7-1).
Tonight’s contest is the late game on Hockey Night in Canada and begins at 8pm MT on CBC (with Dave Randorf and Craig Simpson) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Lines from last night, via Daily Faceoff:
Karri Ramo (0-3-0, 4.38 goals against average, .879 save percentage) starts tonight after being temporarily dispatched to the AHL and then recalled when Jonas Hiller got hurt. Hopefully the team’s defensive play gives him more help than (a) he’s gotten in his previous three starts or (b) Joni Ortio received last night.
The Flames are carrying two extra healthy bodies (Ladislav Smid and Brandon Bollig) and may change things up at game time, but to be blunt: what difference are Smid and Bollig going to make? Last night it was as if every defender got a disease that caused them to make dumb plays with the puck inside their own blueline, and it spread to the point where I thought Dougie Hamilton and Deryk Engelland were the best defenders for their team. UPDATE: BOLLIG IN FOR DEREK GRANT TONIGHT.
Johnny Gaudreau continues to be Calgary’s best player, with only Sam Bennett approaching him. Gaudreau has 12 points in 11 games and continues to be a catalyst, while Bennett has three points in his last two games and is rapidly catching up. Rather than the bizarre defensive deficiency disease, I hope what Bennett and Gaudreau have – youthful enthusiasm – proves to be contagious.
Lines from Thursday via Daily Faceoff:
Cam Talbot gets the start for the home side. He’s 3-5-0 with a 2.6.3 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. The Oilers are presently without Jordan Eberle, Matt Hendricks, Griffin Reinhart, Justin Schultz and Rob Klinkhammer. And despite this – and despite dressing seven defenders last game – they just keep plugging along. I’ll give this to the Oilers: they’ve been fairly consistent, and the recent additions of Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl has given them a jump to their step.
UPDATE: Sounds like Lauri Korpikoski bumps Mark Fayne to the press box, and Griffin Reinhart returns (bumping Andrew Ference to the sidelines as well).
Are the Oilers deep? Can they roll four lines? Nope. And their defensive group is full of question marks. But their top six forwards are talented and able to bury chances, and now they’re feeling confident after a really great effort against Montreal on Thursday.
I’d say keep an eye on Connor McDavid, but c’mon, after his performance in Calgary two weeks ago, just try to keep your eyes off of him. He’s a special, special player, and he’s only getting better as he becomes more accustomed to the NHL game. The kid’s basically a computer, in that he’ll observe things early in games and then use them in the attack later on. Against Calgary? He tested the defensive group from the outside in the first, and then used his observations of tendencies late in the game. Impressive stuff from #97.
WHEN LAST WE MET
The Flames would probably like to forget the last Battle of Alberta. Two weeks ago in Calgary, they lost 5-2 in a game that seems to have been Connor McDavid’s coming-out party as an NHLer. Since then, he’s been excellent (and he wasn’t too bad before then, either).
All-time, the Flames are 114-89-19-3 against the Oilers. They’ve earned 250 points in 225 head-to-head meetings with their friends from up north.
It’s a busy night in the hockey world!
The Stockton Heat play against the San Diego Gulls down in California. In college, Boston University (Brandon Hickey) hosts Denver, while Providence College (Mark Jankowski and John Gilmour) visits Colgate. In the OHL, the powerhouse Barrie Colts (Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson) take on the Hamilton Bulldogs.
THE OTHER SIDE
We’ll have some tidbits from the OilersNation preview once it’s been posted, but for now, here’s our Nations colleague Steve Dangle with a video he did for Sportsnet on…the freakin’ Oilers.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers start strong and punish Calgary 2-0 in the first period. Lazy coverage and penalty trouble get the Flames back 2-2 in the second and they take a 3-2 lead early in the third. A late flurry gets this to overtime and Edmonton wins on an RNH goal.
SUM IT UP
Was last night rock bottom? The Flames had to sit on their bench and watch their own fans throw hats onto the ice for a Dale Weise hat trick. If that’s not enough to snap them out of whatever funk they’re in, perhaps a meeting with the hated Edmonton Oilers can do it.
If not, it’s going to be a long, long night for the boys from Calgary.