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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

FGD 1: The 230th Battle of Alberta (8pm MT, SN West)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our continuing coverage of the 2017-18 Calgary Flames regular season. This year’s coverage begins, quite excitingly, with the 230th regular season installment of the Battle of Alberta between the Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. Both clubs made the playoffs last season. Both clubs were eliminated from the playoffs by Anaheim last season. Both clubs have a bitter taste in their mouths. Both teams feel they could have made more post-season noise than they did.

Expectations are high in both Alberta cities. The Oilers have reigning NHL most valuable player Connor McDavid. The Flames have hotshot sniper Johnny Gaudreau – and should have the legendary Jaromir Jagr in their lineup in a few days time. This is a game that will set the tone for the season and tell us a lot about how the next 81 contests will go for both clubs.

Man, this game – and this season – should be a ton of fun.

Puck drop is just after 8 p.m. MT. Catch the game on the radio on Sportsnet 960 The Fan with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias, while Dave Randorf and Louie DeBrusk have the call on Sportsnet West (and the national feed) as the second game of a season-opening double-header.

The Flames

Here are projected lines for the opening, courtesy of our colleagues at Daily Faceoff:

Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau
Sean Monahan
Sean Monahan
Micheal Ferland
Micheal Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk
Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund
Michael Frolik
Michael Frolik
Kris Versteeg
Kris Versteeg
Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett
Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer
Tanner Glass
Tanner Glass
Matt Stajan
Matt Stajan
Garnet Hathaway
Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano
Mark Giordano
Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie
T.J. Brodie
Travis Hamonic
Travis Hamonic
Matt Bartkowski
Matt Bartkowski
Michael Stone
Michael Stone

Mike Smith suits up for his first start as a Flame, becoming the 51st goaltender in franchise history – and the 11th different Flames goaltender since Miikka Kiprusoff hung it up in 2013. Tanner Glass and Travis Hamonic also make their Flames debuts. Eddie Lack dresses as backup, and Brett Kulak, Freddie Hamilton and Curtis Lazar are the healthy scratches.

Based on the preseason we’ll likely see Monahan’s trio with the Brodie/Hamonic pairing and the 3M Line alongside Giordano/Hamilton, with those two groups up against the top two Oilers lines. The bottom six likely mixes and matches with the Stone pairing and whichever of the top four against the Oilers bottom six. This will be a nice test of Glen Gulutzan’s line-matching; he was out-coached by Todd McLellan on a couple occasions last year and it’ll be intriguing to find out what he’s learned.

The Flames haven’t won a season-opener since 2009, and they’ve only won their first game of the season six times since they won the Stanley Cup in 1989. Fun fact: winning the first game has no significant statistical correlation to a successful season.

The Oilers

Here are Edmonton’s lines via Daily Faceoff:

Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Kailer Yamamoto
Kailer Yamamoto
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
Ryan Strome
Ryan Strome
Jussi Jokinen
Jussi Jokinen
Jujhar Khaira
Jujhar Khaira
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Eric Gryba
Eric Gryba

Cam Talbot makes the start for the home side. He’s backed up by 2011 Flames draft pick Laurent Brossoit, with Iiro Pakarinen and Yohann Auvitu as the healthy scratches. Kailer Yamamoto, selected in the first round back in June, makes his NHL debut.

The Oilers are a top-heavy group, with a very strong top six and then a bit of a drop-off. They’re also a group that utterly flummoxed the Flames last year, winning all four games – including a season-opening home and home series that seemed to kill the Flames dead in their tracks for a few weeks. The Flames will be preoccupied with Connor McDavid, but figuring out how to play against the entire Oilers forward group will be a fascinating storyline to watch; my worry is that the defense could give Edmonton’s forwards too much respect.

Injury Report

Flames: Farmhands Marek Hrivik and Daniel Pribyl are on the injured reserve right now after being hurt in camp.

Oilers: Andrej Sekera is on the shelf following off-season surgery.

When Last We Met

Calgary last played Edmonton back on Jan. 21 at the Saddledome. The Flames did not play terribly well and lost 7-3, never once holding a lead in the game. Tkachuk, Monahan and Bouma scored.

Know Thy Enemy

Here are some Oilers follows to spice up your in-game Twitter experience tonight:

Sum It Up

Two old rivals with identically perfect records face off tonight on a clean sheet of ice. When the game is over, one of them will have bragging rights and a perfect record. The 2017-18 season is upon us and it is utterly full of possibilities.