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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers at Flames

The Oilers complete their first back-to-back set following the All-Star break with the fourth edition of the Battle of Alberta

by Paul Gazzola & Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers visit Scotiabank Saddledome for the fourth Battle of Alberta of the season.

You can watch the game on CBC & Sportsnet or listen on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED.

Read the Preview then check back Saturday after media avails for the Morning Skate Report.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game at CGY 02.01.20

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from the past few days in Oil Country, including a feature on Zack Kassian's impact on the team after signing a four-year contract extension on Wednesday.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

CALGARY, AB - From prevailing in a duel with the Stanley Cup Champions, to trying to crack the armour of a provincial rival in the next.

The fourth rendition of the Battle of Alberta and the second in just three days is set to go down at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary tonight when the Oilers look to follow up Friday's 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues by striking down the Calgary Flames for the first time this campaign.

A shootout defeat for the Oilers back on Wednesday against the Flames was their third loss of '19-20 against their rivals, with plenty of build-up to their fiery reunion living up to the hype in a heated affair at Rogers Place.

"No, I'm not tired of it. It's fun," goaltender Mike Smith, who gets the nod between the pipes for the Oilers tonight, said pre-game. "It's fun to play in these games, so I think it's a big game for our team.

"Obviously the standings are tight, so every point is important now. We had a big win last night and want to continue that."

A resilient win over St. Louis on home ice that saw Leon Draisaitl take sole possession of the NHL's scoring race with a pair of goals stuck the Oilers and Flames alongside one another for the second spot in the Pacific Division with 60 points apiece.

"I thought we were pretty steady the whole game and you have to give St. Louis some credit. They're a pretty good team," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "When they push hard, you have to defend well. There are momentum switches in a game and a team pushes a little bit, but I like the way our guys hung in there."

"It was a really competitive game, Draisaitl came up with a big goal for us, and we got a big kill at the end for the win. Now we have to focus on Calgary tonight."

If Wednesday night was a precursor to what's coming, expect firework displays in all areas of the game down to the finest margins.

"I think it's really competitive," Tippett said of the competitions with Calgary. "The last game, obviously the entertainment of not just the physical play but lots of chances being exchanged back and forth, it makes it exciting for everybody."

"Some of the chances we gave up off easy chances, I'd rather not see in our game. But that's the way hockey is."

FROM CONDORSTOWN TO COWTOWN

Tyler Benson touched down in Edmonton on Friday from Bakersfield, missing the opportunity to immediately join his teammates in the lineup for his NHL debut against the Cup champs following a late afternoon arrival.

As for whether or not he knows if he'll get his opportunity tonight in the Battle of Alberta, the 21-year-old wasn't privy to that decision following this afternoon's pre-game Oilers skate.

"I'm still not sure yet," Benson said. "They told me to be ready, so I had a good skate this morning. Just waiting to hear still. I'm excited no matter what happens."

"Whatever comes, comes, so I'll be ready for it."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Benson

Tippett is weighing the decision with the Oilers injury situation, and couldn't disclose any more information on the rookie's potential debut.

But Benson's link-up with the Oilers is one he's taking in stride after working tirelessly since junior to recover from injury, improve his craft, and lead the Condors in scoring over the last two seasons with 104 points (24G, 80A) in 115 career total AHL games.

"It's not exactly the road I thought I was going to take, but it's been a long time and I'm excited no matter what happens," he said.

"I didn't focus on (the call-up) too much when I was down there. I just wanted to play my game and help my team out as much as I could down in Bakersfield, and when I finally got the call it was exciting news. The coaches were happy for me."

BURNING PASSION

It's a rivalry packed full of emotion, but the storylines aren't penetrating the Oilers dressing room.

"As a coach, you focus on your forecheck, your backcheck, and how you're creating chances," Tippett said. "You're not focusing on what's being said in the media. It's easy to keep the focus in here."

There's two points to take, and any beefing up of the Battle of Alberta or the packed Pacific Division standings isn't clouding the vision of the Oilers players and coaching staff who have their sights set on a singular goal - winning a hockey game.

"That's the message the players feel," Tippett said. "They know what you have to do to try and win, and they know the emotion and the feeling of the game. The standings don't get any better if you don't play well. We concentrate on playing first, then the standings will take care of itself."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Tippett

You can learn a lot and hear plenty of stories over the course of a season and five games against your closest rival, but another clash with Calgary follows an 82-game path of addressing one game after the next.

"There's no secrets, it's not like you're telling them something you don't know," Tippett said. "They know they have to come in and play well if they want to win. I'm sure the other team's saying the same thing. They're all important games. Every time, there's perceived extra emotion."

"I wanted us to be very emotionally engaged against the Stanley Cup champions. Now I want us to be engaged against Calgary on the road, because we need to play well and we need the points."

But you can't fault the players, or coaches for that matter, from knowing some games like the Battle of Alberta will always have that extra flash.

"It's fun. They're competitive games with lots of emotions," Tippett said. "Those are fun games to be around, so it's all good. Both teams are liking it, you guys (the media) are liking it, so it's good for everybody."

-- Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (27-18-6) vs FLAMES (27-19-6)

TV: 8:08 p.m. MT; Televised on CBC & Sportsnet

Head-to-Head:

This is the fourth of five meetings of the season between the Oilers and Flames.

Calgary's culled six out of six points in the BoA this year while the Oilers gained a single point in the club's 4-3 shootout loss to the Flames on Wednesday.

Elias Lindholm (4G, 1A) and Andrew Mangiapane (3G, 2A) have five points in the three games played for CGY.

Connor McDavid, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl all have three points against the Flames this year.

Oilers team scope:

The Oilers will play their second game in two nights after beating the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Friday 4-2. 

January was a good month for the club as they closed it with a 6-1-2 record, outscoring their opponents 37-25 over that span. 

The Oilers are 3-1-1 in their last five games, 7-1-2 in their last 10 and 14-10-2 on the road.

The Orange & Blue are second in the Pacific Division with 60 points.

Flames team scope:

The Flames have not competed in NHL action since the highly-entertaining Battle of Alberta on Wednesday, which they won 4-3 in the skill comp. 

Calgary enters the match with a 7-2-1 standing in their last 10 outings and with a 13-7-4 record at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Lindholm leads the Flames in goals with 21, Johnny Gaudreau tops the club in assists with 27 and Matthew Tkachuk is the squad's highest producer with 41 points.

In goal, David Rittich is 20-12-5 on the year with a 2.77 GAA and .913 SV%.

By the Numbers:

The Oilers have a special team sum of 111.9. ... Edmonton is 28th in the League in shots per game with 29.3. ... After a two-goal performance against the Blues, Draisaitl leads the NHL with 79 points. ... Draisaitl and McDavid are tied for first in the League in assists with 50 each.  

The Flames have the third-fewest first-period goals in the NHL with 35. ... Calgary is averaging 2.63 goals per game, ranking 26th in the League. ... The Flames are 16th on the power play with a 19.9 percentage. ... Calgary is 10th in the NHL on the PK with an 81.9 killing percentage.

Injury Report:

OILERS - Kris Russell (concussion) is on IR; Joakim Nygard (hand) is on IR.

FLAMES - No injuries.

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

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