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Connor McDavid debuts as Oilers captain

Host Flames in first game at Rogers Place

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

Flames (0-0-0) at Oilers (0-0-0)

10 p.m., ET (SN, SN1, TVA Sports 2)

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers play their first regular-season game at Rogers Place on Wednesday, looking to open their new downtown arena with a win against the Calgary Flames.

The game is the centerpiece of a festive evening, which includes the unveiling of a refurbished Wayne Gretzky statue, the opening of a Hall of Fame room commemorating the Oilers history and a lavish opening ceremony. 

Before the game, the Oilers named Gretzky Partner and Vice Chairman of Oilers' Entertainment Group.

The Flames are hoping to spoil the party.

"This is obviously what draws the most attention here in Alberta, the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry, so it's exciting to get it started right away," said Oilers center Connor McDavid, at 19 named the youngest captain in NHL history on Oct. 5. "They are similar to us, they have a lot of young players and have a pretty good back end as well. They're expecting to have a good year and they have a goaltender now [Brian Elliott], and I think they're going to be a very good team."

The Oilers and Flames each underwent major changes in the offseason.

Edmonton's key additions include left wing Milan Lucic, forward Jesse Puljujarvi and defenseman Adam Larsson.

Calgary has a new coach, Glen Gulutzan, a new goaltender, Elliott, and added forwards Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg.

"There is a lot of excitement and you have to bottle that up and use it in the right way," Lucic said. "It's always good and fun to play with emotion. It's the first game for me being part of the rivalry of the Battle of Alberta. You know how heated those rivalries can get, especially with everything else going on tonight. It's a great opportunity for us to have a great start to open up a new building with new players and a new captain."

The Flames will have forward Johnny Gaudreau in the lineup for the first time this season. Gaudreau signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract with Calgary on Monday.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan was happy to see Gaudreau back with the Flames.

"Our game needs the best players in it, our rivalry needs it and our fans deserve to see the best players, not only on our team, but on their team," McLellan said. "We need to be pushed and tested early in the year to see if we need to adjust and adapt. He [Gaudreau] is in the lineup, that's the way it should be."

McLellan coached Gaudreau on Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and has a new appreciation for him.

"I had a pretty good appreciation for him before," McLellan said. "His effect on Team North America was very positive. He has an energy and a passion about him for the game that rubs off on other players. He's a very dynamic offensive guy and we're well aware of that. I think when you're around him a little bit more, you may appreciate it more and that team was special."

Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Sean Monahan -- Kris Versteeg

Matthew Tkachuk -- Sam Bennett -- Troy Brouwer

Micheal Ferland -- Mikael Backlund --Michael Frolik

Lance Bouma -- Matt Stajan -- Alex Chiasson

Mark Giordano -- Dennis Wideman

TJ Brodie -- Deryk Engelland

Nicklas Grossmann -- Dougie Hamilton

Brian Elliott

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Matt Stajan, Brett Kulak

Injured: Ladislav Smid (neck)


Oilers projected lineup

Milan Lucic -- Connor McDavid -- Jordan Eberle

Patrick Maroon -- Leon Draisaitl -- Jesse Puljujarvi

Benoit Pouliot -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins --Anton Slepyshev

Tyler Pitlick -- Mark Letestu -- Zack Kassian

Oscar Klefbom -- Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera -- Kris Russell

Darnell Nurse -- Brandon Davidson

Cam Talbot

Jonas Gustavsson

Scratched: Anton Lander, Matthew Benning, Mark Fayne

Injured: Drake Caggiula (hip), Andrew Ference (hip), Matt Hendricks (lower body), Iiro Pakarinen (knee)


Status report

Versteeg will play on the Flames' top line with Gaudreau and Monahan. Versteeg skated with Calgary for the first time Wednesday morning after signing a one-year contract Tuesday. Versteeg attended Oilers training camp on a professional tryout offer and turned down Edmonton's contract offer to sign with Calgary.


Who's hot

McDavid had four goals and two assists in four preseason games. Bennett had three assists in four preseason games. 

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