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Wins, not rivalry, is concern for Flames, Oilers

by Aaron Vickers

OILERS (7-21-7) at FLAMES (18-15-3)


CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are putting the Battle of Alberta on the backburner as each club tries to shake its respective slump.

"I don't think location is a huge priority right now. We need to get a win and it doesn't much matter where," said general manager Craig MacTavish, whose Oilers have won three straight at Scotiabank Saddledome. "We've had great history against the Flames and great rivalries against the Flames for many, many years. I think it's dying down a little bit right now, but we're in search of a win, for sure."

The Oilers (7-21-7) haven't won in eight straight games and have one win in their past 20.

They'll line up against the Flames (18-15-3), who themselves have just one win in their previous nine. It came in the Flames final game before the holiday break by way of a 4-3 overtime win Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Trailing the Kings 3-0, Johnny Gaudreau recorded his first career hat trick before captain Mark Giordano scored the game-winner with 53 seconds remaining in overtime for the win.

It snapped Calgary's eight-game losing streak.

"I can tell you that it was a happy bunch on the plane coming back from L.A.," Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. "It was lots of fun, and obviously losing eight games in a row is not what we were expecting but we found a way to battle back and the players deserve lots of credit. It gave us a nice Christmas break and now we have six (straight) home games.

"We're in a situation where we can take care of ourselves, and that's the plan and we're starting tonight with the Oilers."

The slumping clubs are returning refreshed. The Flames break featured four days off. Edmonton had three.

Any and all time away was welcomed from both sides.

"It's a chance to just get away from everything for a couple days at least," Oilers captain Andrew Ference said. "It's the same boat for everybody. Everybody gets to take a quick breath and jump back into it. Hopefully we can look at this as a bit of a fresh start, a chance to turn the page on some stuff and get rid of some of the baggage we've been carrying around."

It's the same thought from the Flames dressing room, forward Curtis Glencross said.

"That win right before the break was huge for us, then we had four days to go out, regroup, and clear your heads and all that kind of stuff," he said. "It was a great time to spend with our families. I think everyone came back and everyone is a little more positive when they came in the room, smiling and having fun.

"It's something where we said it would be nice if we could have a four-day break like that every couple of months and be refreshed all the time. But yeah, well-needed time off for us."

The Flames kick off six in a row at home starting Saturday with their provincial foe.

But like MacTavish, Hartley suggested coming out of the break against a rival in Edmonton isn't any added motivation.

Wins are.

"We have the same approach against every other team," Hartley said. "It's pretty tough to have rivals. I understand the geography of Alberta and the natural rivalry, but my goal is to take my team to the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and that's where my focus is. Until we meet the Oilers in the playoffs I don't put too much stock in the rivalry."

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Teddy Purcell

Nail Yakupov - Leon Draisaitl - Tyler Pitlick

Matt Hendricks - Mark Arcobello - Steven Pinizzotto

Andrew Ference - Jeff Petry

Brad Hunt - Justin Schultz

Oscar Klefbom - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Keith Aulie

Injured: Benoit Pouliot (foot), Nikita Nikitin (back)


Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - David Jones

Johnny Gaudreau - Markus Granlund - Jiri Hudler

Mason Raymond - Joe Colborne - Paul Byron

Brandon Bollig - Matt Stajan - Lance Bouma

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Raphael Diaz - Deryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Corey Potter, Brian McGrattan

Injured: Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery), Mikael Backlund (abdomen), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Josh Jooris (upper body)

Status report: Though he won't play against the Flames, MacTavish said Nikitin should return in the near future. … Jooris will miss his second straight game due to an upper-body injury.

Who's hot: Nugent-Hopkins, who leads Edmonton with 22 points, has two goals and an assist in his past three games. … Including his hat trick against the Kings, Gaudreau has four goals in his past two games.

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