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At the Rink: Flames at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Opening night can be stressful enough for the Edmonton Oilers. But having the entire 1984 Stanley Cup championship team in attendance will add another element of anxiety Thursday against the Calgary Flames (9:30 p.m. ET, SN360).

The Oilers' 1984 team will be honored prior to the game, commemorating the 30th anniversary of Edmonton's first Stanley Cup championship.

"Just having them in the stands at morning skate adds a little bit of pressure," Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle said. "But it's fun. It's nice to soak in some of the knowledge they have. A lot of these guys are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, so just to see their faces here in our dressing room is a little bit of a shock. I think it's great for Edmonton to have them back. For us as hockey players a lot of these guys were our idols, so to get to meet them is exciting. You want to soak in as much as you can from them."

The 1984 Oilers mingled with the current players following the morning skate. Those in attendance included Hockey Hall of Fame members Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr.

"It was cool having them in here," Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "I was talking to Glenn Anderson, and I remember when I was 10 or 11 he came out and skated with our atom team and he brought that up. So either he remembered or was reminded of it. It's good to talk to guys like that, especially when he's from around the same area that I am too. It's cool to have that connection as well."

The Oilers made a number of changes during the offseason in an attempt to improve their position in the standings; Edmonton has not made the playoffs since the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

Those making their Oilers debut Thursday include defensemen Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin, and forwards Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot.

"The fact those [1984] guys are here might play a little bit into it before the game, but I think we'll be so fired up because it's opening night and it's our first game in a long time that it won't matter," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I think our minds will be taken off the fact that they'll be watching. But it's cool to have them here. There are a lot of legends here."

Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said he didn't think having the legends watching the game Thursday would distract his players.

"Our players are programmed," he said. "They're going to roll in here [Thursday], know what time the meetings are. They turn into robots. They go through the routine and by the time that puck drops they just forget who's here. They forget that mom or dad or maybe their sister, girlfriends, kids, '84 team; whoever it is it just becomes this focusing in what they do. I don't think there will be any distraction by those guys."

The Flames did not skate Thursday, having lost 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary on Wednesday. However, coach Bob Hartley said defenseman Dennis Wideman and forward Brian McGrattan would be healthy scratches. Raphael Diaz will play in place of Wideman, and David Jones replaces McGrattan.

"We have 23 healthy bodies right now," Hartley said according to the Calgary Herald. "It's just a matter of … it's a back-to-back so it's just like with goalies. So it's not like Dennis Wideman or [McGrattan] had an awful game [against the Canucks]. We’re bringing fresh blood into the lineup."

Karri Ramo will start in goal for the Flames, while Ben Scrivens will be in goal for the Oilers.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot - Leon Draisaitl - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Teddy Purcell

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Brad Hunt - Justin Schultz

Nikita Nikitin - Mark Fayne

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: Will Acton, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom

Injured: Luke Gazdic (shoulder)


Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Mason Raymond - Mikael Backlund - Lance Bouma

Johnny Gaudreau - Joe Colborne - Paul Byron

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Deryk Engelland

Ladislav Smid - Raphael Diaz

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Brian McGrattan, Devin Setoguchi, Dennis Wideman

Injured: Corey Potter (shoulder), Sam Bennett (shoulder)

Status report: Draisaitl, the third pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, will be making his NHL debut centering the second line. … While Scrivens will start Thursday, Fasth is expected to play against Vancouver on Saturday … Petry is playing Thursday despite missing the entire preseason with a shoulder injury. … With Diaz and Jones playing for the Flames, it means Setoguchi is the only Flames player not to get into a game.

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