CALGARY, AB -- If there was ever a must-win game for the Edmonton Oilers this season, Saturday's tilt against the Calgary Flames is it.
Losers of four straight and six points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Oilers are in desperate need of a win in the Battle of Alberta. In order to catch the Red Wings, though, Edmonton needs to leapfrog three other clubs to earn the right to dethrone Detroit.
Flames Season Series Record: 1-2-0
Calgary opened the 2013 edition of the Battle of Alberta with a 4-3 win at Scotiabank Saddledome before dropping both sides of a back-to-back set to start the month of April.
The Oilers jumped out to a quick start in a 4-1 win in Edmonton on April 1st, putting their first two shots behind starter Miikka Kiprusoff and adding another on their sixth shot, chasing the Calgary goaltender from the game. Edmonton added another in the third before Brian McGrattan scored his second in as many games to break Devan Dubnyk's shutout bid.
The Flames mimicked the Oilers start in Calgary a day later, scoring twice on their first two shots but eight unanswered goals by the Oilers -- led by a four goal, 11 point line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle -- gave Edmonton an 8-2 decision.
Right Wing - EDM
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 23
SOG: 60 | +/-: -9
The only Oiler to score against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday, Yakupov extended his personal three-game point scoring streak with his goal at 7:49 of the third period. The first pick from the 2012 NHL Draft, Yakupov now has four goals and seven points in his last six games, pushing his season totals to 10 goals and 23 points in 40 games as he navigates his rookie year.
Left Wing - EDM
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 41
SOG: 127 | +/-: 3
Scoring seven goals and 15 points in a six-game point scoring streak -- capped by a career-high five point outing at the expense of the Flames on April 2nd -- Hall was the league's hottest players. Unfortunately for the Oilers, the first pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft hasn't found the scoresheet since, going pointless in four straight. Still, Hall leads the Oilers in scoring with 28 assists and 41 points in 37 games.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Making just his ninth start of the season for the Oilers, Khabibulan has been strong in his sparse appearances this season. The 40-year-old puck stopper has just a 3-4-1 record this season, but his 2.50 goals against average and .923 save percentage are nearly identical to starter Devan Dubnyk. He is, however, coming off a pair of rough outings at the expense of the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets, allowing a combined eight goals on 49 shots after a 43-save shutout of the St. Louis Blues a start prior.
Despite not playing a game in the minors after January 5th, Schultz was named an American Hockey League First Team All-Star after recording 18 goals and 48 points in 34 games before joining the Oilers for the season. Both figures still lead the AHL, and Schultz has been able to translate some of that success to the NHL, recording six goals and 20 points in 40 games this season -- both totals that lead rookie defensemen.
Much like Hall, Nugent-Hopkins is without a point since exploding for a season-high four at the expense of the Flames 12 days ago, ending a stretch that saw the 20-year-old record 11 points in six games. The first overall pick from 2011 has just three goals in 37 games this season after scoring 18 times over 62 games a year ago. Still, Nugent-Hopkins remains as dynamic as ever.