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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. OILERS

Flames look to continue dominance over Oilers as the Battle of Alberta shifts back to Calgary

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (27-19-5) vs. OILERS (27-18-6)

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

2019-20 Season Series: 3-0-0

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (41)
Goals - Elias Lindholm (21)

Oilers:

Points - Leon Draisaitl (79)
Goals - Draisaitl (29)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 19.9% (15th) / PK - 81.9% 12th)

Oilers:

PP - 29.4% (1st) / PK - 82.6% (8th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 50.55% (13th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.00% (16th)

Oilers:

Shot Attempts: 47.77% (26th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.18% (15th)

 

Video: Hyped for Round 4 with the Oilers Saturday


1. US

This is no time to let up and rest on your laurels.

Yes, the Flames are coming off a 4-3 shootout victory and are unbeaten against the Oilers this year, but Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and company aren't going away.

At 27 wins and 60 points apiece, the 'Battle' is back and the Flames are expecting a grumpy foe at the Scotiabank Saddledome this evening.

"I think they're going to come really hard," Zac Rinaldo said following Friday's practice. "We've (beat) them three games now, and I think they want to win the game more than anything.

"The 'debt has been paid,' so to speak, so my personal opinion is that they're going to put that stuff on the backburner, concentrate on the details of their game and try to beat us on the ice and away from all that other stuff that's been dealt with."

This is the first of a three-game homestand for the Flames, who are 13-7-4 on Saddledome ice this year. It's been an especially tough place for opponents to waltz into of late, with the Flames going 3-0-1 in their last four dating back to Jan. 2.

Sometimes, the hometown fans can make all the difference.

The players are expecting a playoff-like atmosphere when they take to the ice at the 'Dome tonight.

"When we hit the ice, we want the guys to be emotionally engaged," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "What you're seeing is that. But the bottom line is you also need emotional control and emotional focus. When it gets too far to one side, you can do something that can hurt your team. ... But you definitely want guys to have that emotional engagement and that's what you're seeing."

On Friday, general manager Brad Treliving provided an update on defenceman Juuso Valimaki , who has missed the entire season so far with a knee injury.

Valimaki hit a significant milestone recently, as he strapped on the steel and took a twirl around in the ice in full gear for the first time since mid-August.

"I know the first question is going to be, 'Well … when is he back?'" Treliving said. "There is still no timeline on that, but this is a significant next step to get him back up and going.

"I've said all along, we're going to be real cautious with him. He's an important young guy and we want to make sure this is healed properly and rehabbed properly. But, it's arrows up when you get to the point of skating, so that's really good news."

Treliving said Valimaki's recovery is currently on, or even slightly ahead of schedule.

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's tilt with the Oilers


 

2. THEM

This time, the Oilers are the ones coming off a date with the defending Cup champs and will be making the trek south on back-to-back nights.

Look out - they're coming in hot.

The Oilers picked up a 4-2 win over the Blues last night and pulled back into a tie for second-place with the Flames, with one game in hand.

Leon Draisaitl scored twice to extend his point streak to 10 games, while Caleb Jones and Josh Archibald rounded out the offence. Mikko Koskinen made 30 saves for the Oilers, who have won three of their last four and seven of 10 (7-1-2).

Draisaitl has been on a tear since Kailer Yamamoto was recalled from the minors and added to his line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Since then, the German has piled up seven goals and 18 points during this point streak.

"We click well," Draisaitl told Jamie Umbach of EdmontonOilers.com. "Generating some chances, generating chemistry with each other, and both of them have a high hockey IQ. It makes it really easy to play with guys like that."

"It's fun to play right now and hopefully we can keep it going."

Former Flame James Neal was a late scratch and is day-to-day with a foot injury. Patrick Russell replaced him in the Oilers' lineup, but the club does have another option for Saturday, with 2016 second-round pick Tyler Benson earning his first NHL call-up earlier in the day.

In 42 games with the AHL's Bakersfield Condors, Benson has 35 points (9G, 26A) in 45 games.

In a corresponding move, 23-year-old defenceman William Lagesson was also recalled from the Condors Friday.

The Oilers are a banged-up group right now, with Neal, Joakim Nygard and Kris Russell all out with injuries that were believed to be suffered in Wednesday's tilt with the Flames.

Nygard broke his hand after blocking a TJ Brodie slapshot and had surgery to repair it on Friday morning.

 

3. US VS. THEM

Rarely does a game live up the hype after weeks of build-up and fiery cross-talk from both locker-rooms.

It couldn't possibly meet or even exceed the lofty expectations of the hockey world, could it?

Well, we didn't think so.

Until it did.

The third chapter in the season-long rivalry was everything we wished it would be, with the Battle of Alberta re-igniting and serving up a classic that will be remembered for some time.  

Andrew Mangiapane scored twice, Elias Lindholm added the other, and Sean Monahan scored the shootout winner as the Flames took down their bitter archrivals by a score of 4-3 on Wednesday at Rogers Place.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Flames @ Oilers

 

The game also featured the brazen fisticuffs that many were hoping for, with Monahan (!) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (!) dropping the mitts in the heat of battle and sparring in the undercard.

For Monahan, it was his first-career fight; RNH, his third.

The main event followed, with Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian trading blows in a quick, but spirited tilt that put the controversy from the previous meeting to bed.

"It had nothing to do with the hits or anything like that," Tkachuk said. "I just didn't like getting pummeled at home like I did.

"It didn't have anything to do with owing anybody anything. … I wanted to do it earlier and he said no. I think he wanted in on the action (after the Monahan/Nugent-Hopkins tilt) and I said, 'Sure, I'll do it, absolutely.' I wanted to stick up for myself. Every time somebody said 'Don't do it,' it kind of made me want to do it more."

From there, the skill took over and fans were treated to one of the games of the season.

 

Video: CGY@EDM: Mangiapane tees up one-timer from circle

 

The Flames had 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads, but the Oilers - courtesy of Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson and Matt Benning - fought back to force overtime and, eventually, a shootout.

David Rittich put the finishing touch on the skills contest, reaching out and poking the puck off the stick of Leon Draisaitl, before celebrating with a Jose Bautista-inspired 'bat flip.'

What a night.

 

Video: CGY@EDM: Rittich seals shootout win with poke check

 

The Flames are now a perfect 3-0 against the Oilers this year, out-scoring their Pacific counterparts 13-7 in the process.

"There was a lot of stuff going on out there," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "It was a real gutsy effort by our group, playing a good game (Tuesday) against St. Louis, and I thought to come with the effort that we did tonight - on a back-to-back, after a break - was good."

In two games against the Oilers this year, Rittich has a .937 save percentage and a 1.92 goals-against average.

The Flames are 7-2-1 in their last 10 regular-season meetings and hold an all-time record of 124-96-19-5against the Oil, including a 70-42-9-1 mark at home.

 

4. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER

THIS: David Rittich has the sixth-most wins in the NHL this season with 20 in 37 appearances. The 27-year-old has been a busy man, with the fifth-most shots against at 1,155, and the fifth-most saves in the NHL at 1,054. Rittich already has the sixth-most wins by a goaltender in franchise history with 55 in his career. ... THAT: With a pair of second-period markers, Andrew Mangiapane recorded his first-career multi-goal game in Wednesday's victory. It was also Mangiapane's fourth-career multi-point game, and the third multi-point game for him this season. The 23-year-old is having a career year with 17 points (10G, 7A) after signing a one-year, $715,000 contract back on Sept. 15, 2019. ... THE OTHER: Johnny Gaudreau (427 points) is only one point away from tying Joel Otto for the 10th-most points in franchise history. Meanwhile, Sean Monahan (188 goals) is one away from tying Kent Nilsson for the ninth-most as a Flame in franchise history.

 

Video: "Tonight is about focusing on our game"

 

5. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Buddy Robinson

The big man has acquitted himself well since being recalled from the Stockton Heat earlier this week. For the most part, Robinson has played on the right side with Sean Monahan and longtime pal Johnny Gaudreau, and the early results are encouraging.

In 16:40 of even-strength ice time together, the trio has been a force, earning a 70% share of the shot attempts (14-6), a 75% split of the scoring chances (9-3), and an altogether dominant 87.5% stake of the high-danger looks (7-1).

While they've yet to produce a goal in their two games together, the expected goals for/against ratio is largely in their favour - 0.99 to 0.2 (82.99%).

In Wednesday's victory, Robinson played 11:43 (all at evens), finishing with two shots, two hits, and two blocks.

Oilers - Mike Smith

With Mikko Koskinen getting the start and going the distance last night against the Blues, does the former Flame get the reigns in his old barn?

Smith has been good for the Oilers of late, winning five straight before the shootout setback to the Flames on Wednesday. The 37-year-old has a .925 save percentage (good for fifth in the league) and a 2.47 goals-against average in that span, improving his overall record to 12-9-4 on the year.

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