CALGARY, AB -- The Edmonton Oilers are hoping this is the year.
Missing the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, the exuberant Oilers have shown early in the season the building blocks in place to snap such a streak.
With a foundation built around Jordan Eberle and former first overall picks Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, the young core will do its best to push Edmonton into its first playoff appearance since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Complimented by free agent signing Justin Schultz this offseason, the Oilers have the personnel in place to chase the playoffs once again.
The team will need to overcome some inconsistent play, though.
After an impressive shootout victory to open the season against the President Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers dropped their next game against the San Jose Sharks after allowing six goals in the opening period. Edmonton rebounded Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings, dumping the reigning Stanley Cup winners 2-1 in overtime.
With the first installment of the ‘Battle Of Alberta’, there is more than enough motivation from the northern neighbour to bring their best Saturday.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: -3
With two goals in three games to start his National Hockey League career, Yakupov has captured imaginations with his infectious smile and creative goal celebrations. The former first overall pick from last year’s draft is an early Calder Trophy candidate and has been a threat to score from all over the ice in this young season.
Center - EDM
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 7 | +/-: 3
Another former first overall selection, Nugent-Hopkins will be key in Edmonton’s success this year, anchoring the top line with wingers Eberle and Hall. After leading all rookies in points-per-game last season and earning a Calder Trophy nomination, Nugent-Hopkins will be heavily checked by opposing forwards this season.
Defense - EDM
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 11 | +/-: 0
Perhaps overshadowed by Yakupov, the 22-year-old Schultz has been equally as good with three points in three games to start his rookie season. Signed as an unrestricted free agent in the summer after being courted by a plethora of clubs, the once Anaheim Ducks draft pick has settled quickly in Edmonton after a standout start with the Oklahoma City Barons – where he continues to lead all defencemen in scoring.
BY THE NUMBERS
Calgary’s Head-To-Head This Season: 0-0-0
Calgary’s Record Head-To-Head Last Year: 4-2-0
Calgary’s Record All-Time: 104-84-19-3
Record Last Season: 32-40-10 (14th in Western Conference)
Who’s In: Dane Byers, Mark Fistric, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov
Who’s Out: Taylor Chorney, Ryan Keller, Hunter Tremblay
Top Scorers vs. Flames: Jordan Eberle – 2G 6A 8P
Flames Top Scorers: Olli Jokinen – 2G 3A 5P