(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.
When the National Hockey League released its 2016-17 schedule this summer, you could be forgiven if you weren’t terribly excited for tonight’s game. The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers have not typically played meaningful hockey games in January. Heck, most of their games in October have been pretty meaningless given how poor the two clubs have been in recent years. So it’s fairly surprising that tonight’s installment of the Battle of Alberta is between two clubs currently in playoff spots.
The Oilers are third in the Pacific Division. The Flames are in the first wildcard spot. A win for the Flames can close the gap between the two clubs to a single point. A win by the Oilers would put the Flames back on their heels a bit and leave them vulnerable to falling out of the wildcard spots, at least temporarily. In other words: this is a big game between two clubs that really need the points.
A big game? Between the two Alberta teams? These are strange times indeed.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on CBC and Sportsnet 960 The Fan.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
The Flames traveled last night after their loss to New Jersey and given the back to back games they won’t skate today. That said, the expectation is that Chad Johnson will start considering he’s (a) Calgary’s best goalie and (b) was Calgary’s best player against New Jersey. He faced 36 shots so the only reasonable reason behind considering starting Brian Elliott in this situation would be Johnson’s workload. But the Flames don’t play again until Tuesday, so Johnson will have time to rest. He’s 15-10-1 with a 2.25 goals against average and .924 save percentage.
Update: per Flames’ Twitter, Elliott is starting tonight.
The extra bodies for the Flames yesterday were Brett Kulak, Micheal Ferland and Freddie Hamilton. If Ferland’s ready to go, I’d expect him to slot in (if only to give the Flames a jolt of energy). I’m not sure who comes out, especially given that the usual group that rotates out (the fourth line) were arguably the best Flames forward group yesterday.
Do the Flames, on the second half of a back to back and coming off arguably their worst effort of the season, have the speed and structure to compete with the Oilers? They’ll need to be a lot better than they were yesterday, and they’ll really need Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau to be better than they have been in recent weeks.
Lines via Daily Faceoff:
Cam Talbot, who will inevitably be called “Tallbutt” on the broadcast by someone, starts for Edmonton. He’s been really good for the Oilers this season; he’s got a 21-12-6 record with a 2.49 goals against average and .917 save percentage. The Oilers will be without Adam Larsson tonight due to an injury, and they’re also without Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Mark Fayne, Iiro Pakarinen, Tyler Pitlick and Jujhar Khaira due to various maladies.
The Oilers have consistently found ways to win this season. One reason for that has been the play of leading NHL scorer Connor McDavid, who has 50 points and has been consistently good and occasionally terrifying for opposition defenses. The Flames will need to play smart hockey and try to minimize his damage. Expect him to see a lot of Mikael Backlund tonight. The Oilers drop off a bit after that, but if their secondary units are better than Gaudreau or Monahan’s lines tonight they’ll probably win.
In 231 previous regular season meetings with Edmonton, the Flames are 117-91-23. This is the third of four meetings between these clubs this season. The Oilers won each of the first two games back in October. After tonight, they play again next Saturday in Calgary and then the season series is complete.
KNOW THY ENEMY
Your recommended enemy follows for tonight are:
Be nice and have fun, y’all!
SUM IT UP
This is a big game for both teams. Expect a playoff-like atmosphere. The team that is able to manage their energy and emotions effectively will probably win, if they score more goals than the other side. The Flames need Gaudreau, Monahan and Bennett to be better than they have over the last few weeks if they’re hoping to be the team that scores the most goals tonight.