CALGARY - The Oilers enter the Saddledome tonight focused on handing their provincial rivals another loss and going up two games on a team in their division.
Edmonton opened their season with a 7-4 win on Wednesday night against the Flames. Another win will put them up 2-0 for Battle of Alberta 2016.
"The group is certainly focused," said Mark Letestu. "There shouldn't be any extra narrative that has to go into this game. It's a provincial rival, a team we're going to have to battle for a playoff spot. We're trying to take game two as important as game 82. We're trying to stay focused on every game, small picture stuff, but this is a team we want to get ahead of and stay ahead of. To do that and win the first two games, especially one on their ice, is very important to us."
Scoring seven goals in a game does not happen often, and the Oilers are expecting a different feel to this rematch. It could be much more of a tight-checking affair, something the players are ready for.
"You kind of see that around the League, big scoring games and a lot of high-point nights for guys," said Letestu. "Whether that's just knocking off summer rust or the speed of the game catching guys, it will tighten up. Coaches make adjustments, players make adjustments. I would expect tonight to be a lot tighter checking. I am sure they're going to want to be more disciplined and keep us off the power play, which are some things that lead to less scoring chances."
SPECIAL TEAMS FOCUS
The Oilers are happy with their win in their opener, but an area marked for improvement is special teams. Edmonton finished one for six on the man advantage, although they also scored on a penalty shot. Edmonton also allowed a power-play goal and two shorthanded tallies to the Flames.
"It's interesting," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We did a number of thigns well. We drew seven penalty situations if you include Connor (McDavid's) penalty shot, which allowed us to be up a man for almost 11 and a half minutes during the night. We only registered the three shots on goal, gave up two shorties so you go 'geez, that was a disaster.' Yet, if you look at some of the opportunities and looks we had at the net and missed the net, you have to balance that a little bit.
"We've gone after our power play and penalty kill to be better. But in the same breath you have to reward them visually and let them know you acknowledge some of the things they did well."
CHANGES TO LINEUP
With Brandon Davidson's upper-body injury keeping him out of the lineup, Edmonton recalled Eric Gryba. The veteran defenceman will slide into the lineup, paired with Darnell Nurse. Gryba came into camp on a PTO and earned a contract with the Oil.
"It's good to be back with the guys and back to the locker room," said Gryba. "I'm doing what I love to do. There's obviously been some trying times but I'm trying to persevere."
"I'm trying to treat it like any other game. I try to come out and leave it all on the ice and I plan on doing that again."
McLellan says Gryba's size and penalty-killing ability made him the right choice to put in the lineup. As for the forward group, Zack Kassian moves up the depth chart to skate with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon after a good outing on Wednesday. Anton Lander draws in for Anton Slepyshev on the fourth line.
Cam Talbot starts in net for Edmonton for the second game in a row.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (1-0-0) at FLAMES (0-1-0)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet 1
Oilers team scope: It was an eventful start to the season for Connor McDavid with two goals and an assist, including the first-ever penalty shot goal in Rogers Place history. ... The first-ever goal in Rogers Place history went to Patrick Maroon only 70 seconds into the game. Maroon is building off a strong pre-season in which he had four points in five games. He was second on the team in shots with four, behind only McDavid's six. ... Kris Russell also had a good start with a pair of assists against his former team in 20:09 of icetime. ... Brandon Davidson was injured last game and will be out "awhile" according to Coach McLellan with an upper-body ailment. Eric Gryba was recalled in his place but it's unsure who will draw into the lineup with Mark Fayne and Matthew Benning also available.
Flames team scope: Mikael Backlund led the way for the Flames with a pair of assists on Wednesday in Edmonton. The goal scorers came from unlikely sources: Dennis Wideman, Alex Chiasson and Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik each with a shorthanded marker. ... Johnny Gaudreau should have a much stronger outing tonight in Calgary after finishing off the scoresheet and a minus-3 rating on Wednesday. ... Another player poised for a bounceback outing for the Flames is goaltender Brian Elliott who allowed six goals on 27 shots for a .778 save percentage.