Battle of Alberta closes out 2009
Thursday, 12.31.2009 / 7:00 PM
OILERS (16-20-4) at FLAMES (22-12-5)
-- Edmonton 3-7-0, Calgary 4-4-2
-- Four games played so far in the Battle of Alberta, and all have gone to the Flames. On Monday, the Oilers struck early but couldn't keep the momentum going as Rene Bourque
turned in a hat trick in a 4-1 Flames' win.
-- Whether it's Leafs-Habs, Wings-Avs, Rangers-Islanders or Devils-Flyers, rivalries are the spice of life in the NHL, and the Battle of Alberta is no exception, and they don't have long to cool down from the last one. Both teams went into Monday's game in long slumps -- naturally one continued -- but both played and won Wednesday night, so someone is coming out of this one with a little winning streak.
-- A home tilt with the then-struggling Flames wasn't the answer, but the Leafs coming into town Wednesday turned out splendidly for the Oilers as they were able to make the most of two Patrick O'Sullivan power-play goals and hold off a late Toronto attack, ending their seven-game losing streak, 3-1 at Rexall Place.
"It was a long time coming." coach Pat Quinn said. "We probably should have won four of those games but we found ways not to do it. You saw them at the end there they got scared after the one goal but maybe that's a spot we'll pick something up from. Because it is composure. It's easy to say, but you have to have to protect what you've earned.
"It's the confidence when things don't go well. Early on, we had some jump we were forechecking well, we were in good position we weren't turning the puck over and then later on in the first period we started to turn it over and then you started to see us sag a little bit."
-- The week after Christmas has been about ending slumps on all levels for the Flames. They ended a three-game slide with a win in Edmonton and kept the momentum going with a rough-and-tumble 2-1 win against the Kings in the Pengrowth Saddledome.
One of the biggest slumps to end this week is the 37-game goal-less streak of centerman Craig Conroy
. His first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner, but even he didn't expect the slump to end the way it did.
"No, not that way, but any way would be good just to get it going and just get some confidence and kind of roll forward," Conroy said, also commenting about the rafter-rattling reception he got.
"That was great. When I looked up, I really appreciated it. When you go as long as that, the fans can be booing, but they're great here and that's why I love it."
-- Conroy's linemate Rene Bourque
had the natural hat trick in Edmonton and continued the momentum with a goal and an assist against the Kings for a total of five points in his last two games.
"I don't really know what it is," he said. "A few games before, I had chances that weren't going in. Now they're going in for me."
O'Sullivan's two goals make it four points in the last three games for the 24-year-old center.
-- Oilers forward Ales Hemsky
is out for the season following left shoulder surgery. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
(back) and forwards Mike Comrie (mononucleosis), Fernando Pisani (ulcerative colitis) and Marc Pouliot (sports hernia) are also on injured reserve. Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich
has been out since Nov. 23. No timetable has been set for his return.
-- The Oilers have lost more man-games due to injuries so far this season (two games before the half way point) than all 82 games last season. They were at 226 man-games before Wednesday's game. Last season, they had 225.
-- It's a great way to spend New Year's Eve in Alberta, and the standings don't matter when these two teams meet, especially when both are fresh off wins.