EDMONTON, AB - In what has become somewhat of a tradition, the Oilers and Flames face off tonight with two games: one in Edmonton and one in Calgary.
Also not surprising is the fact that the squad heading south down highway 2 will be a little less on the experience side than the squad christening Rogers Place this evening. The top line consists of Patrick Maroon, Anton Lander and Nail Yakupov.
Maroon sees tonight's game as an opportunity to start making his case as a forward that the Oilers can look towards to play regularly this season.
"I'm going to challenge myself to finish like I did last year. I'm still fighting for a job. I want to play on the top three lines," Maroon began. "I want to come out there and play hard every night and compete. I want the job and I deserve the job. I'm just going to play with my teammates, have fun and hopefully good things come out of it."
Maroon did extremely well with the Oilers last season, scoring eight goals and 14 points in 16 games. Over an entire 82 game season, that would be 41 goals and 72 points and while that would be a lofty goal, Maroon's off-season training was such that he hopes to pot five or six more goals than he did throughout all of last season which would push him near 20.
"I worked with a skating guy and a skills coach that really helped me out a lot, just finding ways to get an extra five or six goals per year. Working on my shot. That's one of the big things for me. I work on my skating every summer, just working with a skills coach to develop some habits that I can do off the rush, in the neutral zone and creating more offence for myself and my linemates."
Maroon got himself into tremendous shape, resulting in a camp weight over 15 pounds lighter than last year's playing weight.
"It was one of those things where you gain weight during the summer before you start training. So, all in all, from last year's weight I lost about 15 pounds from last year's target weight that I played at. But all in all I lost 25 from when I started summer training," he said.
"I feel good on the ice. I feel leaner. I can walk around, put my gear on and I just feel a lot better than being heavy."
Matt Hendricks, Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian will make up the second line while the top defence pairing heading to Calgary will be Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson.
The Flames lineup will include plenty of NHL regulars such as Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik, Matt Stajan, Troy Brouwer, TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, Deryk Engelland, Dennis Wideman and Brian Elliott among others so it will be a big test for the young Oilers squad.
32 - Jon Gillies 31 - Chad Johnson 40 - David Rittich
EDMONTON, AB - Pre-season is finally upon us and what better way to tease the season opener at Rogers Place than to host a Battle of Alberta split-squad game?
Last year, the Oilers dominated the pre-season provincial rival opener with a 4-2 win in Edmonton at Rexall Place and 3-1 win at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, I think the crowd will be into it," said Oilers forward Jordan Eberle. "First game [back], you want to try and find your game right off the bat. You want to feel confident out there, and I think the pre-season is used to find your game quickly and making sure you're the best version of yourself come first game of the season."
Eberle, who will be making his player debut in Rogers Place alongside top linemates Drake Caggiula and Milan Lucic, said that there is still a feeling out process that is occurring between the players and the rink itself.
"We've been in here for a couple of weeks now and you're starting to get the lay of the land a little bit but I think, as far as the rink, I think it's going to take a little bit to feel comfortable," said Eberle.
With the World Cup now in its last leg of the tournament, the NHL pre-season has come fast and furiously. Although there is excitement brewing both inside and outside the lockerroom surrounding the Oilers first game in Rogers Place - despite it being a pre-season one - Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said he will be paying closer attention to what is produced on the ice.
"As great as the building is and as exciting as it will be to play, we're more worried about the interior and what's going on on the ice, and we have to make some decisions real quick as an organization and tonight will be that first step," he said.
Lucic, who makes his debut as an Oiler in the new building tonight, admits that he is still learning the ropes with his new teammates while adjusting to the new playing surface.
"There is a lot of details to the system that they play. You can see that [the coaches] put the time and the work in to give us all the information to have success," he said.
"Now, as a player, it's our responsibility to put that forward on the ice. This group is definitely still learning, there's obviously still some time here with seven pre-season games coming up for us to come together as a team and start putting that system and that plan into place, so when October 12 comes we're all moving in stride.
While many eyes will be watching to see how the 6-foot-3, 233-pound winger will fair, fans will also be paying attention to the new defensive pairing between Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson.
"We're going to give them some time to get to know each other a little bit on the ice, obviously off the ice they're quite familiar with each other," said McLellan. "For Adam, he's got to figure out the system, the verbiage that we use, how we want to play and in some sense Klef as well because it's been so long since he played. I'm almost looking at them as a brand new pair, brand new players, not necessarily to the organization but just trying to find their games."