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5 THINGS - FLAMES @ OILERS

Round 3 of the Battle of Alberta goes tonight in Edmonton

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (26-19-6) at OILERS (26-18-5)

8 p.m. MT | TV: Sportsnet | RADIO: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

2019-20 Season Series: 2-0-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau (40)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (20)

Oilers:

Points - Connor McDavid (76)
Goals - McDavid, Leon Draisaitl (27)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 20.0% (16th) / PK - 82.0% (11th)

Oilers:

PP - 29.7% (1st) / PK - 82.1% (10th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.64% (12th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.19% (16th)

Oilers:

Shot Attempts: 47.38% (27th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.24% (15th)

 

Video: Alanna Nolan sets up tonight's game

 


1. US

There's no rest for the wicked.

The Flames were in action last night, dropping a 5-4 shootout decision to David Perron and the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Sean Monahan scored twice, while Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Jankowski added singles to round out the offence. Cam Talbot stopped 30 of 34 shots in regulation in overtime, but was beaten twice on two tries in the shootout.

It was a valuable single point for the Flames - who pulled one point ahead of the Oilers in the process - but after bringing a 4-3 lead into the third period, they felt they should have closed the deal.

"You could tell there were some execution issues and coverage both ways," Talbot said. "Coming out of the break, that's what you expect, I guess. We got one big point but we needed the second."

 

Video: Condensed Game: Blues @ Flames

 

The Flames finished 3-for-4 on the powerplay and fired 31 shots on goal.

The recently recalled Buddy Robinson had three of them, with the big man showing all kinds of jam in his Calgary debut.

The 6-foot-6, 225-lb. winger was a force at both ends, driving the play offensively giving up little in his own end, including a flawless 1:22 on the penalty kill where he came up with a key block to quell the Blues' pressure late in the second period.

Robinson started the game on a line with Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett , but soon found himself with Sean Monahan and longtime pal Johnny Gaudreau as a result of his efforts.

"I thought (Robinson) was playing with a lot of energy," interim head coach Geoff Ward said. "He was using his size well, was in on the forecheck. …. He played well. He definitely earned the opportunity to move over there.

"We liked the adjustments that we made and I thought we got good contributions from a lot of people."

It was Robinson's first NHL game since Dec. 10, 2016. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Flames back on Jul. 2, 2018, and has been honing his craft with the club's top affiliate, the Stockton Heat, ever since.

In 40 games with the AHL club this year, Robinson has a team-leading 16 goals and sits fourth overall in team scoring with 30 points.

He brings a unique skill-set that made for some instant chemistry.

"Personally, I felt good," Robinson said. "It's disappointing not to get the two points. To come here, and in order to stick, you want to be part of a winning hockey team. So, obviously it's disappointing not to get the two points. But, personally, I felt good, was able to get my feet moving. I just wanted to prove that I'm able to get in on the forecheck and be a factor at this level. To get a few extra shifts was pretty motivating to me and it's only going to drive me further at this level.

"I'm going to work even harder so I can make this is a full-time thing."

David Rittich will get the start in goal. Having recently returned from the NHL All-Star Game, Rittich 19-12-5 record, along with a .913 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against average 36 appearances this year.

 

Video: Matthew Tkachuk on Flames-Oilers hype

Video: "We're both fierce competitors"

 

2. THEM

The Oilers are looking to pick up where they left off, having won two straight and six of their past eight prior to the break.

In fact, their only regulation loss in that span came against - you guessed it, the Flames.

In their final game before the bye week, a career-high, four-point (1G, 3A) game from Riley Sheahan led the Oilers to a dominant, 7-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Connor McDavid (2), Josh Archibald, Sam Gagner, Kailer Yamamoto and Joakim Nygard also had goals in the victory, and Mike Smith stopped 25 of 28 shots for his fifth-straight W.

Smith has a 12-9-3 record, along with a .901 save percentage and a 2.96 goals-against average in 26 appearances this year.

"We came out with purpose tonight," Oilers coach Dave Tippett told Jamie Umbach of EdmontonOilers.com that night. "We came out knowing we had to play well this game going into the break. There were things we did in the game that our group has been talking about as keys to us playing well. We've done a pretty good job at them, and tonight was a good example."

The win briefly gave the Oilers a share of first place in the Pacific, but they have since been passed by the red-hot Vancouver Canucks (and, now, the Flames).

However, the Oilers have the fewest number of games played (49) compared to everyone else in the playoff race.

This past weekend, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl represented the Oilers at the NHL All-Star Game.  

There was a great moment at the end of the final game when Draisaitl, McDavid, Mark Giordano and David Rittich shared a group hug to celebrate their 5-4 victory - and subsequent $1 million prize - over the Atlantic Division.

Who would have thought? What a scene.

Asked whether or not the chummy camaraderie would cool the animosity between the two rivals, Draisaitl could only laugh.

"It doesn't change much," he told reporters at Monday's practice. "At the All-Star Game, that's not the time to get into fights or start anything - that just doesn't need to happen there.

"They were great. I'm sure they'll say the same thing about us. It was fun, fun to be around them. But, obviously, when it comes to Wednesday, there are two teams playing against each other that have a rivalry and don't necessarily like each other, so that'll be played out on the ice."

On Monday, the Oilers recalled defenceman Matt Benning from a conditioning stint with the Bakersfield Condors.

Benning, who's appeared in only 24 games this year due to concussion problems, could make his return to the Oilers' lineup this evening.

"It was kind of a serious thing but I've felt great for a long time now," Benning told Paul Gazzola of EdmontonOilers.com. "It's one thing to feel good and it's another thing to be back in game shape. That was the main reason for being there. I was thankful to go down and play some minutes."

Benning had one assist and two penalty minutes in three games with the Condors.

In 24 games with the Oilers, the Edmonton native has five helpers and is averaging 13:42 per game in ice time.

 

Video: Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse on facing the Flames

 


3. US VS. THEM

Pretty much nothing happened the last time these teams met. Nothing at all.

But, seriously - where do we begin?

The Flames took home a 4-3 win to improve to 2-0 against their hated rivals this year, but the game will be remembered for everything but the two points in the standings.

Late in the second period, an angry Zack Kassian responded to a massive hit delivered by Matthew Tkachuk - the second such hit of the game, knocking his helmet off - by charging the Flames' leading point-getter and throwing a series of punches.

Kassian was given a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct, and was later assessed a two-game suspension by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for violating the league's 'aggressor' rule.

The incident sparked all kinds of debate online, with both sides of the province taking a clear stance on both players' involvement.

Some fiery, post-game quotes came from the dressing rooms, too, making Round 3 one of the most highly anticipated Battle of Albertas in recent memory.

"If he doesn't want to get hit, then stay off the tracks," Tkachuk said. "I caught him three times there. You'd think he'd learn after the first one. If he wants to react like that, we'll take the powerplay, we'll take the game-winner and we'll move on into first place."

Spicy.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Oilers @ Flames

 

Elias Lindholm (2), Johnny Gaudreau and Dillon Dube supplied the offence, while former Oiler Cam Talbot stuck it to his old team with a stellar, 29-save effort in the victory.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2) and Connor McDavid tallied for Edmonton, with Mikko Koskinen getting tagged for the L between the pipes.

The victory followed a 5-1 triumph the Flames handed the Oilers back on Dec. 27, with Andrew Mangiapane leading the way with a career-best, three-point game.

David Rittich got the start that night and finished with 28 saves on 29 shots.

Lindholm leads all skaters in head-to-head scoring with four points (3G, 1A) in two games.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Flames @ Oilers

 

The Flames are 6-3-1 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 123-96-19-5 against the Oilers, including a 53-54-10-4 mark on the road.

This is the first of two meetings in four days, as Round 4 of the 'Battle' will play out on Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The five-game series will wrap up on the final night of the regular season - Saturday, Apr. 6 - in Calgary.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: With a two-goal performance last night, Sean Monahan surpassed the 400 career-point plateau. Monahan (25 years, 108 days) is now the second-youngest player in franchise history to reach 400 points with the Flames. Guy Chouinard (25 years, 69 days) in 1980 is still the youngest Flame to achieve that mark. ... THAT: Both of Monahan's goals last night came on the powerplay, giving him 55 career strikes with the man-advantage. With that, he passed both Joe Mullen (53 PPG) and Gary Suter (54) for the eighth-most powerplay goals in franchise history. ... THE OTHER: The Flames are in the midst of their seventh back-to-back scenario of the season after playing the Blues last night at home. The Flames currently have a record of 2-4-0 in the back half of these twin bills this year. Calgary will entertain another three back-to-back sets this season, with the next coming on Feb. 12 and 13, in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

 

Video: Coach Ward on lineup, facing the Oilers and more

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - LW Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau finished with two assists in last night's game, but could easily have had more with the type of jump he showed.

Gaudreau had a pair of second-period breakaways that could have broken the game wide open, but both were denied by Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. In all, No. 13 recorded three shots and a Corsi-For percentage of 66.7 (14-7) - the second-highest mark on the team.

Buddy Robinson - who joined Gaudreau and Sean Monahan early in the second period - led all skaters with a 76.5% (13-4) split of the shot attempts.

Might we see this combination again tonight? Time will tell.

 

Video: "I thought we did a lot of good things."

 

Oilers - C Leon Draisaitl

Since Kailer Yamamoto was recalled and put on a line with Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers have gone 5-1-1, with the German centering the trio and engineering an eight-game point streak.

Draisaitl's 14 points (5G, 9A) in that span give him 75 on the year (27G, 48A) - one off teammate Connor McDavid for the league lead.

Nugent-Hopkins, meanwhile, has 13 points (6G, 7A) in his last eight, while Yamamoto has six (3G, 3A).

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