EDMONTON -- The Calgary Flames are hoping the 2023 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic against the Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, TBS, MAX) can be a catalyst for an early-season rallying point.

The Flames (2-5-1) enter the Heritage Classic having lost six of their past seven games, including a current four-game losing streak.

"It’s huge," Flames defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. "It’s a pretty unique opportunity to hit the reset button. You have two desperate teams going at it, teams that are dying for a win. It’s going to be a Battle of Alberta tomorrow for sure. It’s set up great. We are looking for two points and we need that bad. Yeah, it will springboard, carrying through November and hopefully the rest of the season. We can look back on this game as one of those pivotal moments and it’s going to be a big two points for our team."

Calgary entered the season with a renewed sense of optimism after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2022-23.

The Flames, who finished fifth in the Pacific Division last season, two points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card from the Western Conference, promoted assistant general manager Craig Conroy to GM to replace Brad Treliving on May 23. Conroy then promoted assistant coach Ryan Huska on June 12 to fill the vacancy left after the firing of coach Darryl Sutter.

Those moves haven't yet translated to the standings. Calgary is sixth in the Pacific and 14th in the Western Conference, 10 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights, who lead both.

"We have to come up with the right mindset that we're here to play our best hockey game tomorrow, and fully recognizing that there's two important points on the line for us," Huska said.

"You ask your players to, when they have the time like after practice today to shift gears and enjoy the moment with their families because these are really cool experiences you want them to have, but then when it comes back to preparing and getting ready for the game tomorrow, that's what matters, is making sure they have the focus that they need to have of being the best version of themselves and our team."

Vladar mic'd up at practice ahead of Heritage Classic

The Oilers (1-5-1) finds themselves in similar territory as the Flames having lost four straight (0-3-1).

It puts a heightened importance on the result of the Heritage Classic for both sides.

"I think it takes away a little bit of the tough stretch we're in," Calgary captain Mikael Backlund said. "It's not a long stretch, but losing [four] in a row ... we didn't play well last game … now we get to come here last night and have a good weekend in Edmonton and enjoy this special game.

"It takes away a little bit of the regular-season feeling and breaks it down to one game this weekend. It's a big game. Always a big game against Edmonton, but a little extra special this time. It's the same for them. They're in the same boat, pretty much. One team is going to feel a lot better about themselves waking up on Monday."

The 2023 Heritage Classic celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first NHL regular-season outdoor game, also held at Commonwealth Stadium.

It'll be the third outdoor game for the Flames, who beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 on Feb. 20, 2011, at McMahon stadium in Calgary and lost to the Jets 2-1 in overtime at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26, 2019.

"I think this is a pretty unique opportunity to hit the rest button," Calgary forward Blake Coleman said. "We can enjoy it today and this experience with our family and friends and things like that and kind of forget about everything that started off the season. Tomorrow is a fresh rest for us and a great opportunity to get on the right track.

"Obviously, both teams are probably saying the same things at this point. Somebody’s got to come out with a win, and somebody can use that win to springboard their season the right way."

Related Content