OILERS (6-2-1) at FLAMES (6-2-1)
We're not even out of October and already it's time for the third installment in this season's Battle of Alberta. Calgary has prevailed twice already on Edmonton's home ice, winning both times in dramatic fashion. A last-minute goal by David Moss
led the Flames to a 4-3 win on Oct. 3 and just five nights later they rallied on Rene Bourque
's tally with 1.5 seconds left in regulation and shootout goals by Nigel Dawes and Olli Jokinen
for another 4-3 victory.
With surprising Colorado off to a fast start, the Oilers and Flames are battling to keep up in the Northwest Division. Their records entering Saturday night are identical, but this game means more to Edmonton as far as not letting Calgary get any ideas it can dominate this season series.
Those two early losses to Calgary hardly discouraged Edmonton, which has gone 5-1-0 since then to tie its rival in the standings. The Oilers recently swept a three-game homestand against Minnesota, Vancouver and Columbus, coming back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Blue Jackets, 6-4.
"It's huge for us to win a game like this," forward Ales Hemsky
said after contributing a power-play goal and four assists to the effort. "It's very good for our confidence. Hopefully we can build on this."
This is the third in a five-game homestand for Calgary, and the goals have been coming so far. The Flames picked up a 5-3 win over another Northwest rival in Vancouver and followed that up with a 6-3 win against Columbus. This will be just their third game in the past nine days, but coach Brent Sutter wasn't concerned of his players coming out flat due to lack of activity.
"It's a divisional game, it's a rivalry so you’ve got to expect there to be a lot of emotion in the game. If there's not, there's something wrong," Sutter said.
The line of Hemsky with Dustin Penner and Sam Gagner
is rolling for the Oilers, having contributed 13 points (4-9) in the comeback win over the Jackets. Penner is among the League leaders in scoring with 14 points.
"That was a pretty good line tonight," Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. "All three of them were excellent. They played against that Rick Nash unit most of the night and seemed to relish in the challenge. I think it helped them stay sharp."
Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who slipped to just 11 goals last season, already has five in nine games. In each of his past two games, Phaneuf had a goal and a plus-2 rating.
Moss hasn't played since the Oct. 8 game against Edmonton due to an upper-body injury, but Calgary could have him back in the lineup. The Oilers won't have defensemen Sheldon Souray or Steve Staios, as both recover from concussions, but of more immediate concern is a flu bug that has felled several players, forward Gilbert Brule
apparently the most severe case. Forward Fernando Pisani, who hasn't played yet this season due to a back injury, is close to returning.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla
, the subject of some controversy after his hit led to Souray suffering a concussion the last time these teams met, didn't score a point in either game in Edmonton earlier this month. He's gone four games total without a point against the Oilers and they've held him scoreless in seven of the last 10 meetings.
"Both of us are having some early success, which maybe in the last couple years hasn’t happened," said Flames defenseman Cory Sarich
, who missed the first two games against the Oilers while recovering from a foot injury.
"You’ve got some solid goaltending at both ends, they’ve got some guys up front that are really hot right now, we’ve been getting scoring from all over the place so it’s going to be interesting how it shakes out (Saturday). I know we had a couple close calls in their building. I was unfortunately watching those back home on the television so I’m just excited to finally get into it."
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com