Ladies and gentlemen, around these parts we’ve been clamouring for an important edition of the Battle of Alberta for years. Tonight’s contest between the Calgary Flames (34-26-10) and the Edmonton Oilers (30-34-4) is important for both sides for very different reasons. The Flames are in desperate need of points as they try to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race. The Oilers are trying to push themselves back to the .500 mark and prevent our pals at OilersNation from having to wear turkey hats, shorts, or eat beets. It’s a desperate team from Calgary facing a team from Edmonton with nothing to lose.
The puck drops just after 7:00 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. Just to warn y’all: there will be Johnny Gaudreau bobbleheads available for purchase on the concourse. Get there early, if you want ’em.
For a view from the other side check out OilersNation.
Projected lines, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Gaudreau – Monahan (A) – Ferland
Bennett – Backlund – Frolik
Stewart – Shore – Hathaway
Lazar – Stajan – Brouwer (A)
Giordano (C) – Hamilton
Brodie – Hamonic
Kulak – Stone
Mike Smith starts for the Flames. He’s 23-17-6 with a 2.56 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He’s backed up by David Rittich. The scratches are Tanner Glass, Matt Bartkowski and Mark Jankowski. Chris Stewart subs in for Matthew Tkachuk (who’s out tonight after smacking the back of his head and neck on the boards tripping over Mat Barzal on Sunday night) and Nick Shore subs in for Jankowski. Kris Versteeg is close to a return, but won’t play tonight.
The Flames begin the evening three points out of a divisional spot (chasing Los Angeles) and two points out of a wild-card spot (chasing Colorado). Their margin for error is basically nil, as they need to win nine of their final 12 games in order to hit the 96 point mark that’ll likely be the playoff cutline.
The Flames have wildly out-shot, out-attempted, out-whatevered the opposition for the last few weeks. As much as it pains me to write, the only thing that matters right now is results, points and wins. Putting 50+ shots on a goaltender is all well and good, but the Flames are well past the time where moral victories will suffice: they need actual victories.
Projected lines via Daily Faceoff:
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Aberg
Lucic – Draisaitl – Cammalleri
Slepyshev – Strome – Puljujarvi
Caggiula- Khaira – Kassian
Nurse – Larsson
Russell – Bear
Sekera – Benning
Cam Talbot starts for Edmonton. He’s 25-26-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .906 save percentage. He’s backed up by Al Montoya. the projected scratches are Iiro Pakarinen and Yohann Auviu.
The good news for Edmonton: Connor McDavid has 84 points and is having a brilliant year. The bad news? Everything else. The Oilers enter tonight 16 points out of a playoff spot and the sound you’re hearing are the cheapest years of McDavid’s undoubtedly productive NHL career flying by – he begins his $12.5 million cap hit next season, which really hampers management’s ability to surround him with a good supporting cast. He’s worth it, mind you, but he can’t do it alone.
Flames: Daniel Pribyl (knee), Kris Versteeg (hip) and Marek Hrivik (upper-body) are on the injured reserve.
Edmonton: Oscar Klefbom (undisclosed) is out, but remains on the active roster.
When Last We Met
This is round four of five Battles of Alberta this season. The Oilers have won the first three by scores of 3-0, 7-5 and 4-3 (in a shootout), with the Flames getting out-scored 13-8 and capturing one of a possible six points. They’ll meet one more time at the end of March in Calgary.
Know Thy Enemy
Please don’t be too mean to these Oilers tweeters:
Sum It Up
The Flames need wins, or else they need to start booking tee times for the second week in April.
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Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
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