CALGARY, AB - The Edmonton Oilers face the Calgary Flames tonight at the Scotiabank Saddledome. It’s Calgary’s first game after the Christmas break and Edmonton’s second in as many nights.
From Head Coach Todd McLellan’s pre-game media availability, it sounds like the team will make three lineup changes tonight. Jujhar Khaira will be inserted into the lineup, Brad Hunt has been recalled from AHL Bakersfield and will play tonight plus Anders Nilsson will start in goal.
“No concern about Cam at all,” McLellan said, regarding this rationalization for starting Nilsson tonight against the Flames. “Prior to the game in Denver I pulled both goaltenders aside and wanted them each to play one before and one after (the Christmas break) just to keep their engines running. Back-to-back situation so it would make sense that Nilly would go in here. After that, we’ll make decisions as we see fit.”
McLellan was asked about splitting up the line of Benoit Pouliot, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to help provide some jump in the lineup. He was hesitant to do so.
“It’s hard because each of those players — Ebs is well beyond the injury, the timing and all that type of stuff so he should be back up and running. Nuge has been fine. Benny Pouliot played two games then had a five-day hiatus with Christmas. I didn’t think he had a particularly good game in Vancouver at all.”
The head coach leaned towards letting them continue to play together in the hopes that they can get going again.
“That’s the catch-22 you have as a staff. Do you play them minutes to get them going again or do you cut his minutes back because he isn’t playing very well? I think he’s an important player and we have to give him that opportunity but with a little poke in the ribs.”
Eberle talked about how long it took him to get back in the swing of things after he missed the first 13 games of the season with a shoulder injury.
“It took me 12 or 13 games,” Eberle said. “Everybody’s like that. Especially if you miss at the start of the season. I’d say it probably took me 12 or 13 games to just get mentally back into it and catch up. After that I felt good. Even right now, I feel good. I feel like I’m starting to hold onto the puck a little bit more and create a little bit more out there.”
-- Marc Ciampa,, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (15-18-3) at FLAMES (16-16-2)
Season series: The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have split road victories this season, Connor McDavid had his first two-goal game and three points in the Oilers' 5-2 win on Oct. 17. Taylor Hall had three points for the Oilers; David Jones scored twice for the Flames. Michael Frolik completed a hat trick by scoring the game-winner with nine seconds left to give Calgary a 5-4 win on Oct. 31. Hall has two goals and six points in the two games.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton has lost four straight road games, including a 2-1 overtime defeat at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Edmonton has seven goals in its past five games (1-3-1) and went 0-for-3 on the power play Saturday. The Oilers have one power-play goal in their past six games (1-for-16). "We're a better team than how we're playing right now," coach Todd McLellan told the Oilers website. "Our power play let us down when we needed a goal from them." Goalie Cam Talbot remained in the game Saturday late in the third period after his head slammed into the post. "I feel better now, just shaken up at the time ... It kind of rung my bell but I felt OK when I got up and took a drink," he said. Talbot started the past two games and likely will back up Anders Nilsson on Sunday. The Oilers play six straight games at home after visiting the Flames.
Flames team scope: Calgary goes for a franchise-best 11th straight win at home; the Flames haven't lost at Scotiabank Saddledome since a 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 30. The 10 straight home wins tied the team record set in November-December 2006. "Without that game [scoring the tying goal with one second left] against Boston and the game against Dallas [a three-goal third period comeback], and we would still be having a good homestand but we wouldn't be talking about records," coach Bob Hartley said Saturday. "We deserve it. We were very opportunistic at the right time." The Flames hadn't skated for three days. "We talked during the video session about our situation, the standings, the rest of the season...it's a tough task since there's so much hockey to be played," Hartley said. "You have to be ready for [the Oilers'] offense. They are fast and very skilled. ... we will have to be at our best." Forward Johnny Gaudreau hat a hat trick in a 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and has 10 goals and 16 points in 10 games this month.