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PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Flames

The 2016-17 season gets underway as the Calgary Flames come to town and Rogers Place is finally open for regular season action

by Meg Tilley and Marc Ciampa /

Click here to watch an archive of our LIVE Pre-Game Show on YouTube

The Oilers kick off a new season and a new era tonight with the grand opening of Rogers Place against their heated intraprovincial rivals, the Calgary Flames. 

Fans attending the game or watching on TV (nationwide, Sportsnet & Sportsnet 1) should be in their seats or tuned in by 7:45 PM to ensure they're able to watch the ceremony in full. 

Anyone without a ticket who wants to be a part of it all, come down to Ford Hall and the Molson Canadian Hockey House where doors open at 4:00 PM with alcohol service up to 60 minutes after the game's conclusion. There will be live music and the game and ceremony will both be played in their entirety!

Without further ado, here's tonight's game preview: 


Coverage of Tuesday's practice at Rogers Place, including the announcement of the Oilers 23-man roster.



EDMONTON - It's a big night for Oilers defenceman Kris Russell.

Gearing up to play in yet another Battle of Alberta faceoff, the veteran blueliner will this time be sporting a new jersey when he steps onto the Rogers Place ice for opening night.

"It's a little different, but I just feel like it's a great opportunity for me here in Edmonton and I'm going to do the best I can to help this team win," said Russell, who will be donning the Oilers emblem in exchange for the familiarity of the Flames crest.

Having had little time to prepare with Edmonton, only getting his feet wet playing in one the final pre-season game against the Vancouver Canucks, the veteran NHL player said he feels ready. 

"I feel good," he said.

"I did the best I can to stay in shape, skating with the [Red Deer] Rebels there, [Head Coach] Brent Sutter let me skate with them and he really worked me pretty hard and made sure I was ready if called upon. I'm excited to get going, obviously, there's things I've still got to work on, habits with the systems, but every day I feel more comfortable in this building."


It's the inaugural season at Rogers Place, and what better way to kick-off the year than with a good ol' fashioned rivalry?

Though some may admit that the Battle of Alberta hasn't been quite what it used to be, there appears to be a rumbling that insinuates there may just be a resurgence as both teams have worked hard to rebuild their core, changing the look and feel of their once youthful glow.

"It would be great for both our teams and both cities and particularly the province of Alberta right now," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We need a little uplift right now, we need a little excitement and hopefully the two teams can provide that.

"We have our star players, they have theirs, - exciting players, they're fun to watch - but the battle is going to get heated up when the two teams graduate a little bit more and work their way into a playoff situation where maybe they're competing for a spot or happen to meet in a round, we know the viciousness of the past and the players are well aware of it. For it to really get back to where it needs to go I think the two teams need to perform at a higher level."

Dating back to the Alberta teams' first regular season matchup on October 26, 1979, the Oilers have a 112-120-4 record against the Flames.

Calgary holds the active record for longest winless streak in season openers, currently on a six-game skid (0-5-1).

"These games are the most fun to play, it's a big rivalry for sure," said Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom.

"At the end of the day, we've had a lot of good battles… Calgary is a good team, so we have to be focused when the puck drops tonight."


Russell won't be the only Oiler slipping into the orange and blue for the first time.

Edmonton's 2016 first-round draft pick, fourth overall, Jesse Puljujarvi will not only be making is Oilers debut, but his NHL debut as well - sporting a new number, number 98. 

It's been a big adjustment for the Finnish forward, - who is used to skating on an International playing surface that measures 200-foot long by 100-feet wide, versus the 200-foot by 85-foot game that's played in the national league - but McLellan and the coaching staff feel camp has really helped to identify any strengths and weaknesses Puljujarvi faces.

"For him, more organized is sometimes understanding the game a little bit better, what we want to do in certain situations - forecheck, neutral zone, that type of stuff - but also having players around him that are a little more organized, delivering pucks at the right time, crisper passing, so we're expecting to see that but he's an 18-year-old that's going to play his first official game," said McLellan.

"There'll be a large part of nerves that are involved in [tonight], we just want to let him play, we don't want to be on him too much, let him experience that game."

At the same time, Edmonton will welcome defenceman Oscar Klefbom back to the blueline, who missed the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to injuries he sustained in December of last year.

Klefbom said he couldn't be more elated with his return. 

"I feel great. I'm 100 per cent, the ankle feels good, it's been a long preseason, I just want to get into the regular game, starting here so I'm very excited for tonight."

The Oilers projected lineup for tonight is: 


Lucic - McDavid - Eberle

Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Slepyshev

Maroon - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi

Pitlick - Letestu - Kassian

Defensive pairings:

Klefbom - Larsson

Sekera - Russell

Nurse - Davidson


Cam Talbot is expected to start tonight

-- Meg Tilley,


OILERS (0-0-0) vs. FLAMES (0-0-0)

TV: Ceremony begins at 7:45 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet and Sportsnet 1

Oilers team scope: Connor McDavid had an excellent pre-season for the Oilers, with four goals and six points in four games. ... Patrick Maroon also did very well with four points (two goals) in five games, despite getting injured in one of the contests. ... Mark Letestu led the Oilers in pre-season plus/minus at +4 in five games. Adam Larsson was second at +3, also in five games.

Flames team scope: Johnny Gaudreau missed the entire pre-season while he and the Flames were negotiating a contract. The Flames leading scorer last season will play tonight, however. ... Kris Versteeg spent the entire pre-season with the Oilers and had one goal in four games, but he surprisingly signed with the Flames yesterday. ... Calgary's leading scorer in the pre-season was defenceman Brett Kulak who had two goals and an assist. ... Goaltender Brian Elliott, who was acquired this past off-season, was stellar in the pre-season with a 0.83 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. 

-- Marc Ciampa,

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