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Oilers' McDavid gets first taste of rivalry with Flames

by Aaron Vickers

OILERS (0-4-0) at FLAMES (1-3-0)


CALGARY -- Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid will get his first taste of the Battle of Alberta, making his debut in the provincial rivalry against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.

"I'm excited," said McDavid, who has one goal in four games to start his NHL career. "It's something that is covered pretty well in the media and a lot of people are watching. I'm excited to play in it. We both have young teams. It's exciting to be a part of. It should be a good game."

The Flames (1-3-0) are well aware of what to expect out from McDavid, their new northern neighbor, who received plenty of press before and after becoming the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft last June.

"I think he's going to be a superstar in this League for a long time and I know he gets a lot of coverage but he's handling it well," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "He's going to be a top-line player tonight on the other team, so we've got to find a way to hopefully limit his time and space and contain him, but they're a pretty skilled group over there."

The rivalry has been an uphill battle for the Oilers (0-4-0) of late.

The Flames swept the season series last year, winning the five games by a combined score of 21-8. Calgary has a seven-game winning streak against Edmonton and has won eight of the past 10. The Oilers have finished ahead of the Flames in the standings just once (2012-13) in the past 11 seasons too.

McDavid hopes to change those fortunes.

"I think you want to win every game," he said. "That's what the game's all about is that intensity. The Battle of Alberta brings that out. I'm certainly excited to play."

The 18-year-old becomes the latest injection of youth in the provincial rivalry that has gotten decidedly younger in recent years in including forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov added from an Oilers perspective, and forwards Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett for the Flames.

Hall is the oldest in either grouping at 23.

"When you run those names down one after another there's a lot of youth that's in tonight's game," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "The future of the National Hockey League, at least from an Alberta perspective, is on display. Both teams are, I believe, trying to build through that youth and through draft picks. It's an important game for Calgary, it's an important game for Edmonton, and maybe for the NHL."

It's important for the standings too.

The Oilers are winless to start the season, while the Flames have won once and are still seeking their first victory on home ice.

"So far we're not getting great starts but at the same time you know it's just a matter of time before the Taylor Halls, the Nugent-Hopkins, the McDavids and the Monahans and Bennetts and Gaudreaus and all those guys -- you look at both sides," Hartley said. "Hockey comes in cycles and you look at the past years, there's no way to say that it was great hockey, but now, for fans in Alberta, we're going to see two teams on the rise, two teams with still a lot to learn but at the same time a lot to offer.

"The game should be lots of fun."

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsMatt Hendricks

Benoit PouliotConnor McDavidNail Yakupov

Lauri KorpikoskiAnton LanderTeddy Purcell

Rob KlinkhammerMark LetestuLuke Gazdic

Andrej SekeraMark Fayne

Justin SchultzOscar Klefbom

Griffin ReinhartEric Gryba

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Jordan Eberle (shoulder)

Scratched: Andrew Ference, Brandon Davidson, Anton Slepyshev


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Micheal Ferland - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Mason Raymond - Josh Jooris - Brandon Bollig

Mark Giordano - Dougie Hamilton

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Brett Kulak - Deryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Injured: Lance Bouma (leg), TJ Brodie (hand), Joe Colborne (thumb), Ladislav Smid (neck)

Scratched: Markus Granlund, Joni Ortio

Status report: Klinkhammer is expected to dress in place of Slepyshev for Edmonton. … Hiller will make his third start of the season for the Flames. Hartley didn't project any other changes to his lineup following an optional skate Saturday.

Who's hot: Frolik has three assists as part of a two-game point scoring streak. Gaudreau had points in each of the first three games of the season before being shut out against the Jets on Friday.

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