FGD: The final battle (of Alberta) (8pm MT, CBC)

After a dismal effort on Thursday evening, the Calgary Flames are back in action at the Scotiabank Saddledome. And tonight’s game is going to be a doozy as the Flames welcome the Edmonton Oilers to town for the final regular season installment of the Battle of Alberta.

The Flames sat idle after their loss to Nashville, while the Oilers hosted the Predators up at Rogers Place on Friday night and lost 3-2 in a shootout. Facing a team that played the night before, the Flames will need to play with energy and emotion to capture a sorely-needed two points.

The puck drops just after 8 p.m. MT and you can catch all the action live at the ‘Dome, on the tube on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, and on the squawk box on Sportsnet 960 The Fan!

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Matthew TkachukMikael BacklundMichael Frolik
Kris VersteegSean MonahanTroy Brouwer
Johnny GaudreauSam BennettAlex Chiasson
Lance BoumaMatt StajanMicheal Ferland

Mark GiordanoDougie Hamilton
T.J. BrodieDennis Wideman
Jyrki JokipakkaDeryk Engelland

Despite losing in his last outing – and not being particularly great over his past two or three – Chad Johnson gets the start tonight. I’ll admit that I’m a bit confused by this move given how good Brian Elliott was against Edmonton last Saturday and how Johnson has looked in his last few games (and that it’d be nice to get Elliott a game in before the Eastern Canada road trip next week), but if we wanted confirmation that it’s Johnson’s net I think we’ve now gotten it. He’s 16-11-1 with a 2.31 goals against average and .931 save percentage.

Sam Bennett returns after his one game trip to the press box, which pushes Freddie Hamilton out of the lineup due to the numbers game. The elder Hamilton was quite good in his short return to the lineup, but he’s not one of the Flames’ 12 best forwards (unfortunately). Garnet Hathaway remains out day-to-day with an upper body injury, while Brett Kulak remains a popcorn-munchin’ extra body. This will be his 18th game as a healthy scratch (he’s dressed for 15 in the NHL and 11 in the AHL this season).

The key to victory for the Flames tonight? Scoring more than the other team (duh) but that is made easier if they score first. The Flames have been good at holding leads this season but have tended – especially in October – to struggle when they’ve had to claw back from behind. When they trail they tend to open up their defensive structures a bit, which is death against a team with as much speed and offensive ability as the Oilers have. If the Flames can turn this into a grind, they could win. But they need to score first to give themselves a chance.

THE OILERS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Patrick MaroonConnor McDavidLeon Draisaitl
Benoit PouliotRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Milan LucicDrake CaggiulaAnton Slepyshev
Matt HendricksMark LetestuZack Kassian

Oscar KlefbomAdam Larsson
Andrej SekeraKris Russell
Brandon DavidsonMatt Benning

Will Laurent Brossoit make his first start of the season? That’s the big question the day after the Oilers captured a big point against Nashville – though they’re probably ticked that they couldn’t get both against a tired Predators club. Cam Talbot faced 44 Nashville shots so based on workload, my expectation is the Flames’ sixth round selection in 2011 – sent to Edmonton in the Ladislav Smid deal – suits up for the first time this season. We’ll pass along word regarding what the Oilers elect to do when we get it.

The Oilers never had the lead last night, but battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to force extra time and capture a point. They weren’t great last night but they showed a lot of resolve and tenacity. They boast the NHL’s leading scorer in Connor McDavid and a cast that features a nice mix of size, speed and skill. Some of their players, such as Leon Draisaitl, have all three attributes. To steal a phrase from the Nation Network’s Jeff Veillette: the Oilers are actually good. The Flames will need to be sharp tonight if they want to get two points.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES OILERS
Wins 24 25
Points
(Pct.)
51
(.531)
58
(.604)
Power Play 21.0% 20.8%
Penalty Kill 81.5% 81.0%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 50.1% 51.5%

HISTORY LESSON

This is the 233rd regular season game between the Flames and Oilers. All-time, the Flames are 117-91-24 against Edmonton. The Oilers have won their first three games with the Flames this season (once in a shootout) and are going for the sweep.

KNOW THY ENEMY

Your recommended enemy follows for tonight are:

SUM IT UP

It’s a big, big game for both teams, but particularly for the Flames after Nashville captured four points during their Alberta trip. The Flames haven’t fallen out of a playoff spot yet, but they need points to keep from doing so this weekend.

Meaningful hockey between Calgary and Edmonton in mid-January? This must be a dream.