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Oilers visit Calgary as Battle of Alberta resumes

by Matthew Mankiewich

OILERS (2-1-0) at FLAMES (0-2-1)


Season series: The Battle of Alberta will have four full stanzas this season, but this will be the only one until April 1.The Flames took two of three in both cities last seasons and have won 15 of the last 18, but the Oilers have won the last two meetings. Their 6-1 victory on Feb. 21, 2012, ended a 10-game losing streak in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Big story: It's been a long time, but Oilers fans have waited patiently for all these high draft picks to break out and pass the Flames in the standings on their way to bigger and better things. This game could make an early statement in the Alberta rivalry. The Flames can't get too caught up in that as they try to avoid going without a win in their first four games for the first time since 2000-01.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Despite going 2-1-0 in their first three games, the Oilers are wary of falling back into their habit of slow starts. If they gut out games like Thursday's 2-1 overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, they needn't worry much.

The penalty-filled game looked like it would be pushed into overtime on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' 6-on-4 goal with 1:05 left, but referees disallowed it due to goalie interference. Instead, Nail Yakupov tied the game in highlight-reel fashion with 4.7 seconds left, giving Sam Gagner a chance to grab the extra point with a power-play goal 3:01 into overtime.

"That's as close to a playoff atmosphere as we've had here," Gagner said. "We need to win these tight games, so it feels good."

Flames: The young guns of Edmonton may be riding into town, but in Calgary, rookie Sven Baertschi is wondering whether he will suit up Saturday night. Coach Bob Hartley has been shuffling his rotations of late, and the 2011 first-round pick found himself on the fourth line at Friday's practice. With Jiri Hudler and Roman Cervenka returning, Baertschi could be the odd man out as Hartley manipulates and molds the team to his system.

"Maybe he changes his mind tomorrow," Baertschi said to the Calgary Sun about Hartley's decision. Baertschi has no points, four penalty minutes and three shots on goal in his first three outings.

"It's gonna be a competitive lineup," Hartley said in the Sun. "Everyone has to fight for his ice time. Whether it's Jarome Iginla, whether it's Alex Tanguay, whether it's Sven Baertschi, this is the NHL and only one thing matters, it's to win hockey games.

"We will make the decision [Saturday] what is best for the hockey club."

Who's hot: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Gagner all have a goal and three assists, while Yakupov has scored twice in three games. … Curtis Glencross has two goals and two assists in three games so far for Calgary.

Injury report: With Hudler and Cervenka due back, the Flames should be at full strength save for a long-term injury to defenseman Anton Babchuk (shoulder). … Oilers defenseman Ben Eager took a punch in the eye from Vancouver's Zack Kassian on Sunday night, and has since been diagnosed with a concussion. Andy Sutton (knee), Theo Peckham (hip flexor) Ryan Jones (eye surgery) and Nikolai Khabibulin (hip) remain on injured reserve.

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