The Battle of Alberta is always a feisty affair with but with both teams sporting identical records - 6-2-1 with 35 goals scored against opponents - there's a heightened intensity level surrounding tomorrow night's tilt.
"Obviously they’re playing better. We’re playing better too," head coach Brent Sutter said. "It’s a divisional game, it’s a rivalry so you’ve got to expect there to be a lot of emotion in the game. If there’s not, there’s something wrong."
"People get excited about it – it’s a good rivalry. We’re both off to good starts and we want to keep things going and they probably do too so it should be good," said Edmonton native Jay Bouwmeester.
"Both of us are having some early success, which maybe in the last couple years hasn’t happened," said Cory Sarich. "You’ve got some solid goaltending at both ends, they’ve got some guys up front that are really hot right now, we’ve been getting scoring from all over the place so it’s going to be interesting how it shakes out tomorrow. I know we had a couple close calls in their building. I was unfortunately watching those back home on the television so I’m just excited to finally get into it."
The physicality is always high when these two teams meet and for Brian McGrattan, that's just the way he likes it.
"It’s the best type of fun, buddy," he chuckled.
The former Ottawa Senator was involved in the Battle of Ontario several times during his tenure in the nation's capital. This will be his first time playing in the Battle of Alberta and he expects there to be several similarities in the rivalries.
"The games in Ottawa against Toronto were pretty intense, the fans were into it, lots of physical play so it probably won’t be any different tomorrow. I can't wait."
After he finished chatting with the media, McGrattan hung out for awhile while his neighbor, Brandon Prust, got his gear off and showed his fighting techniques. When asked if he was ready to square off against Edmonton heavyweight Steve MacIntyre, he just laughed.
"Of course, every game. If he wants to fight, I’m ready to go."
RETALIATION NOT FEARED
The Flames were bombarded with questions about Oilers retribution against Iginla on Friday morning. The Flames captain inadvertently knocked defenseman Sheldon Souray into the boards on Oct. 8 and the blueliner has been out with a concussion ever since.
While the incident was unfortunate, no one on the team was worried about any vigilante actions against the captain.
"I’m not worried about that. You’ve got lots of guys to look after themselves. It’s two teams that compete and are going to play hard against each other. You shouldn’t expect anything less than a highly competitive game," said Sutter.
One of those guys is McGrattan. He knows that he may be called upon if anyone takes liberties with Iginla.
"You just have to go out there and be ready to protect our high end players and our skilled guys. If anybody takes a run at him, that’s why I’m here."
As for the man himself, Iginla is unconcerned about how physical the game could be tomorrow.
"As far as worrying about retribution, no. I know he’s been out awhile and I definitely feel bad about that. I obviously didn’t mean it and I also think it was a freak thing. It was not meant in any way," he said. "They always play hard against me and the team. It should be that way and I don’t expect it to be any different."
Dustin Penner has kicked off his season in a tremendous fashion. The Edmonton forward has seven goals on the campaign and had a five-point outing against Columbus on Thursday night. He's currently sitting in the fourth position in NHL scoring with 14 points. After two sluggish seasons under Craig McTavish, the winger is flourishing with Pat Quinn has head coach.
The Flames are well aware of Penner's resurgence and feel they're prepared to handle him and his line mates, Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner, but want to focus on their own play.
"They’re playing well," said Sutter. "My biggest thing is how we play and what we need to do. We’re well aware of our opponent, as I’m sure they are with us, and we know them pretty well. I don’t think we want to get so caught up that we’re just focusing on three players."
As for containing big-bodied Penner, the defense have different tactics they plan to employ tomorrow.
"The easiest thing is not to play in your own end," smiled Bouwmeester. "He’s a big guy and knows how to use his body and protect the puck. You try to keep him out of those areas but you can’t really run at guys like that, you’re not going to bowl him over, so you’re going to have to contain him."
Sarich wants to make sure his team plays Penner in an intelligent fashion that sees them take him physically but without drawing penalties.
"You might not be able to get them in front of the net but you definitely try to get your licks in the corner," he said. "With a guy like Penner it’s tough because he is so solid that you have to worry about position. A lot of time it’s not so much the body with guys like that, it’s making sure that puck stays away from the net. You still try to get a lick in when you can but you really have to be smart about it."
When it comes to the Oilers other top forward, Hemsky, Sarich was hoping for a more brute approach.
"As far as Hemsky goes, let’s hope Reggie gets in his kitchen again," he laughed.
Since Tuesday, David Moss has been fully taking part in the team's practices and hopes to be on the ice against Edmonton tomorrow.
"Hopefully, I can go, but I think it’s up to the doctors and (coach Brent Sutter)," Moss said on Thursday.
The 27 year-old winger has missed five games with an upper-body injury sustained in the last Battle of Alberta on Oct. 8. He was also nursing a sore foot after getting nailed with a slap shot.
Moss skated on the top line while practicing the power play earlier in the week but was placed with Dustin Boyd and Prust on Friday morning. Despite spending the majority of his games with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, Moss isn't concerned about where he'll slot in.
"Hopefully, I can come back and help the team in whatever way they see. I don’t think the coaches are too worried about where to put me. They could probably find a spot for me on any line. It really doesn’t matter to me."