EDMONTON, AB - Hours ahead of their inaugural regular season game at Rogers Place, the Edmonton Oilers dressing room was buzzing about kicking the year off with The Battle of Alberta.
"It's good for the fans. That's obviously what draws the most attention here in Alberta, that Edmonton-Calgary rivalry," newly-minted captain Connor McDavid said. "I'm excited to get it started right away."
"All the players and the coaches are excited," Milan Lucic chipped in. "We've just got to use that emotion - use it the right way."
The Oilers, with fresh faces sprinkled throughout the lineup, are eager to see how this year's edition of the rivalry shapes up against a Calgary crew that boasts similar attributes.
"They're very similar to us," McDavid noted. "They have a lot of good, young players and a pretty good back end as well. We're expecting a good year (from them). They've got a goaltender now and I think they're going to be a very good team."
One of the new players joining the Oilers lineup this year is former Flames defenceman Kris Russell. The veteran blueliner signed a one-year deal with the club earlier this month and is quickly settling in with his new team.
"I just go about my business," he said after the Oilers morning skate. "I come in here, I work hard, listen to the coaching staff about what they want me to do and how they want me to play. Just try to build some good minutes and earn some more minutes."
Russell played 198 regular season games with the Flames and dressed for 11 postseason dates with Calgary back in the spring of 2015. Going head-to-head with his former teammates will be odd, he acknowledged, but it hasn't altered his mindset heading into his Oilers debut.
"It is a little tough but at the same time, when the puck drops, it's another game," he stated. "I'm sure they'll say the same. It's a big two points (at stake)."