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game recap

Oilers play for first time at Rogers Place

Defeat Flames in preseason game to open new arena

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers took their first test run at Rogers Place on Monday in a split-squad preseason game against the Calgary Flames and were impressed with their new home.

The Oilers defeated the Flames 4-2 in the first NHL game played at the new downtown arena in front of a capacity crowd of 18,500.

"We had a chance to appreciate it probably more during warmup," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "You can admire the crowd, the building, the lighting, the music, the sound. I think everything is an upgrade from our old building; it gave us many good years, but it was time.

"Once the game started, we were so focused on what was going on, on the ice that you don't notice it that much. The benches are more comfortable, but we're still trying to find our way in our new home as well. You go in between periods and you're not sure where you're going or how far it is to get anywhere. But that's why we have exhibition season."

Rogers Place opened officially Sept. 8 and hosted several concerts and a Western Hockey League game before Edmonton had an opportunity to play in the building. The Oilers moved into their new arena after 42 combined World Hockey Association and NHL seasons at Rexall Place (formerly Northlands Coliseum).

"It's amazing. It's almost like a space dome or something, I can't really put my finger on it," said forward Kris Versteeg, who is in Edmonton training camp on a professional tryout contract. "It's futuristic, I don't even know, it's years ahead of its time. There is a lot here that a lot of guys are still in awe of when you look around and you kind of get out there and you look up and just see the building in general. Tonight, with the fans in there, it made it an even better atmosphere and fun to be there."

Oilers forward Iiro Pakarinen scored the first NHL goal at Rogers Place at 11:08 of the first period. Edmonton battled back from down 2-1 with three goals in the third period.

"You can tell that they did a really great job with the building," said forward Milan Lucic, who was making his Oilers debut. "The times when it got loud, you could really feel the crowd noise. It's something that they did really great when they built this building, and I think there is a lot to look forward to as far as that goes once the season starts."

The Oilers, who will play their first regular-season game at Rogers Place on Oct. 12 against the Flames, are getting used to their new arena and all the amenities that come with it.

"One feature I really like is how they put the [Oilers logo] on the roof [of the dressing room]," forward Jordan Eberle said. "I know a lot of teams, they put the symbol in the middle of the floor, and obviously, it's a bad omen to step on the symbol, so guys are walking around it. I like how they did that. I hope that catches on."

The game against Calgary gave Edmonton its first opportunity to use the new technology incorporated into its dressing room.

"We're trying to piece everything together in the coach's room and the ability to send it into the locker room," McLellan said. "We'll need a few more exhibition games to get it right, but our staff has done a pretty good job of adapting. For me, as an individual, only being here for a few days, it's scambly, but I think we're going to enjoy our home if we continue to win here."

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