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Flames set to face Russell in Battle of Alberta

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- From friend to foe. 

Home to away. 

Red to blue.

From one side of the Battle of Alberta to the other.

"You're happy for him," Flames forward Matt Stajan started on friend and former teammate Kris Russell, who signed a one-year contract to join the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

"On a friendship base, you want to wish him well. He has his career to take care of. The part of this that sucks is we have to play him now. It's like anything. When you're on the ice you're battling.

"I was just always hopeful he'd be back here, maybe, with us. You always want to see guys that you know and play with and have success with back. Same time it's a business. That's the way the game goes. You wish him well. 

"That's the way it goes."

Russell, of course, spent parts of three seasons and 198 games in Calgary as a member of the Flames before being traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock and a conditional draft pick in 2016 last February.

He signed with Edmonton as an unrestricted free agent after a lengthy test of the open market.

The other side.

"I felt like, the way they talked to me and the way this team is developing and the way they've played, I think it's fun," Russell told the Oilers' website. "You get in a new building, the crowd's going, and you've got some good, young exciting players and I've been in situations before where I've been on a team when they're kind of on the uprising and I felt like I could help and I'm glad with this opportunity.

"I wanted to be with an organization from the get-go, right from the start of camp. I didn't want to be the guy coming in late but I think, with the way things worked out, I'm extremely fortunate that the Oilers gave me an opportunity to play here." 

Russell, he said, feels fortunate.

His former teammates, they suggested, are a little disappointed in the choice of destination from the Caroline, AB native. 

But the support still stands from his friends down the QEII.

"Russ is a quiet guy but a confident guy," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "We all knew he was going to get a contract. As friends we were hoping it might be here. Good for him. He landed and got a nice little deal. I'm happy for him as a friend.

"There was a lot of interest, I think, from the sounds of things. It's going to be tough playing against lil' Russ there on the other side. We play them four times this year. It'll be a little bit different, that's for sure.

"I'm happy for Russ as a friend that he landed and got a contract."

But that friendship is off.

At least, for the four times they'll cross paths this season.   

The first comes at Rogers Place.

On Wednesday.

In the season opener for both clubs. 

"There's no friends on the ice," Stajan said.

"We wish him well.

"But come Wednesday we're enemies."

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