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Flames, Oilers try to end slumps

by Aaron Vickers

FLAMES (22-30-7) at OILERS (20-34-7)


Last 10: Calgary 6-4-0; Edmonton 5-4-1

Season series: This is the fourth of five games in the Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won two of the first three and shut out Calgary 2-0 in their most recent meeting on Dec. 27.

Big story: The Oilers and Flames have sputtered coming out of the Olympic break; each was shut out on home ice Thursday. The Oilers lost 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild in Edmonton, while the Los Angeles Kings beat the Flames 2-0 in Calgary.

Team Scope:

Flames: At 22-30-7 and 13th in the Western Conference standings, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a near-impossibility for the Flames. That hasn't stopped coach Bob Hartley from demanding a playoff-like atmosphere from his troops over the final 23 games of the season.

"I want them in a playoff mode," Hartley said. "It's going to be a gauge to where we're at, how we can cope with a playoff feeling. At the same time, I believe it's a great investment for everyone because let's face it, we have many young players who don't have or have very little NHL playoff experience.

"It's not NHL playoffs, but we're going to put ourselves in playoff mode."

Starting with the loss to the Kings, Hartley has broken down Calgary's remaining games into two seven-game segments, leaving the balance open to different options.

Oilers: Forward Nail Yakupov might have caught a break by avoiding one.

Yakupov had to leave the loss to the Wild after taking a shot from teammate Justin Schultz off the foot. But an initial X-ray showed no break.

"It happens sometimes and it's part of the game, part of hockey and sometimes shots will get your body or your legs when you stand in front of the net," Yakupov told the Oilers website. "It happens. It's OK. I think it will be better for sure and I'm just waiting to be in a game again and just play for the Oilers."

Still, Yakupov could miss the game against the Flames.

"I don't know," he said when asked if he would have to sit out. "I can't say anything now, but I hope not."

Who's hot: Before going pointless in back-to-back games to sandwich the Olympic break, Mikael Backlundhad six goals and 10 points in six games for the Flames. … Though he has failed to record a point for the Oilers in six straight contests, Ales Hemsky scored three goals and added an assist for the Czech Republic in Sochi.

Injury report: Flames defenseman Chris Butler is expected to miss the game after sustaining an upper-body injury in the loss to the Kings. Brian McGrattan, who is also nursing an upper-body injury sustained in practice last week, has been cleared for contact but isn't expected to play. Goaltender Karri Ramo (lower body) and forward Curtis Glencross (lower body) are out. … Yakupov remains questionable and Oilers defenseman Philip Larsen is injured reserve with an undisclosed ailment.

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