CALGARY, AB - Light the torch and let it burn for two straight days as the Oilers and Flames prepare for back-to-back Battle of Albertas.
The wires didn't cross in Round 1 of the season series when the Oilers suffered a 6-4 setback on the road but the second matchup comes at critical junctures for both sides.
The Oilers intend to keep heating up after going 7-3-0 in the last 10 games while the Flames search for a spark after a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
With a possibility for spirited Battle of Alberta hockey in the air, heavyweight Jujhar Khaira wants the smoke. The 6-foot-4, 212-pounder notched his first goal of the year against the Flames, has three points in his last four contests and knows his presence can be a factor on Friday.
"When both teams are going out there playing physical, as big guys, we enjoy these games," Khaira said. "It's our chance to set the tone. It's going to be a grind-y game and that's what we have to stick to."
The Flames were in desperation mode when the two teams first waged war on Feb. 6. Calgary is in a similar situation presently, causing the Oilers to expect urgency from the opposite side once again.
"They're coming off a loss and they're going to want to win this one. We just have to set the tone early and stick to our game plan," Khaira added.
Flames forward Elias Lindholm opened the scoring just 56 seconds after puck-drop in the first Battle of Alberta. The Oilers managed to counter for a 2-1 score heading into the second frame but Calgary eventually prevailed by striking five times in the remaining 40 minutes of play.
Edmonton is 7-2-0 when finding the back of the net before their opponent in the 2020-21 campaign. Blueliner Tyson Barrie emphasized the difference a hot start could make.
"You know the other team is going to come out hard. You definitely have to focus on your start, especially on the road," he said.
The Oilers lead the National Hockey League in first-period markers with 24 and own a plus-seven goal-differential in the opening frame, outscoring opponents 24-17. The Flames are minus-seven in the 1st and have pinpointed their early-game efforts as a weakness.
"We're obviously doing the right things to prepare and we're ready to play at puck-drop," Barrie continued. "If you can get a jump on a team early, that's great. And if you can score a few in the first period, it's just good for confidence and kind of gets everybody going."
Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett confirmed Mike Smith would make his fourth start of the season. "It's twofold: Get Smitty some starts and get Koski a little bit of rest for the load that he carried early in the year," he said of the goaltending decision.
James Neal will replace Kyle Turris as a bottom-six winger. Neal last dressed in Edmonton's 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 11.
"He needs to continue to get himself up to speed," Tippett said of Neal. "I'm looking for him to come in and just continue to build his game and get it back to where it was last year."
The Oilers are reeling from a memorable 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets. McDavid registered two assists to surpass the 500-point plateau and Head Coach Dave Tippett registered his 600th career National Hockey League win behind the bench.
McDavid (9G, 23A) and Leon Draisaitl (10G, 18A) rank 1st and 2nd in NHL scoring with 32 and 28 points, respectively. Tyson Barrie (3G, 11A) and Darnell Nurse (6G, 7A) are 4th and 6th, respectively, in defencemen scoring.
The Oilers are 7-3-0 in their last 10 and enter Friday's Battle of Alberta 3rd in the North Division with 20 points and a .556 points percentage through 18 outings. The team will navigate the home-and-home with the Flames then head to Vancouver for a pair of away games with the Canucks.
"I like these sets of games where you go and play a team twice," Tippett said Thursday. "The old saying that we talk about every day is, 'Every game is a four-point game.'"
Flames Team Scope
The Flames completed a four-game series with the Canucks on Wednesday, dropping the final match 5-1. The club went 2-2-0 in the series and are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games.
Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau is the team-leader in goals with nine and is tied with Elias Lindholm for the lead in points with 16. In goal, Jacob Markstrom is 8-5-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Backup David Rittich is 0-2-0 in three games played, sporting a 3.23 GAA and .868 S%.
The Flames own an 8-7-1 record, 17 points and a .531 points percentage in 16 games. The team is 5th in the North Division and has gone 5-4-0 in the month of February.
Friday's game marks the second of 10 Battle of Albertas in the 2020-21 campaign. Calgary took the first game by a 6-4 score back on Feb. 6. McDavid struck for a goal and added an assist in the loss but Flames forward Mikael Backlund topped all players with a goal and two helpers.
McDavid has 24 points (16G, 8A) in 21 career games against the Flames. His 16 goals are the most he has scored versus any franchise. Draisaitl has 25 points in 25 career matches with CGY. His 21 assists when facing the club is the most he has recorded against an organization.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers are 11th on the PP (24.6%) and 23rd on the PK (75%). ... McDavid leads the NHL in power-play points with 14 (4G, 10A). ... McDavid has three goals, eight assists and 11 points in eight road games in '20-21. ... Draisaitl is tied for 2nd in power-play points with 11 (5G, 6A). ... Draisaitl has won 60 draws on the man advantage, most among centres who have taken 15 percent of their team's faceoffs. ... Edmonton is 5-3-0 on the road, outscoring opponents 26-23. ...
Calgary is 15th on the PP (21.3%) and 18th on the PK (79.6%). ... The Flames are 22nd in the faceoff circle with a 48.5 percentage. ... The club is averaging 2.75 goals per game, which places them 21st in the League. ... CGY owns a minus-seven goal-differential in the 1st period but is plus-five in the 3rd. ... Calgary is 3-5-0 when outshooting their opponent and 4-2-1 when outshot by them.
OILERS - William Lagesson (upper body) is day-to-day; Ethan Bear (face) is on IR; Zack Kassian (hand) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on IR.