The Alberta portion of the NHLs 89th regular season kicks off tonight as the Edmonton Oilers face off against archrivals the Calgary Flames as part of a home-and-home Battle of Alberta to open the 2006-07 campaign.
In addition to being a key intra-divisional match-up, this evenings game also pits the leagues last two Western Conference Champions against one another. The Oilers earned the title this past spring, while the Flames were Stanley Cup finalists in 2004.
Last season in eight meetings, the Flames came out on top five times while the Oilers won on three occasions. Two of the games went to extra time with the Oilers winning in a shootout at Calgary on November 25 and in overtime at Rexall Place on March 16.
OILERS TO WATCH:
With the off-season addition of Joffrey Lupul and Petr Sykora, the Oilers boast one of the more potent forward sets in the Western Conference. Lupul had 28 goals last season and finished the pre-season tied for the team lead with three goals and six points. Jarret Stoll also had a strong pre-season with four goals and six points in four games.
FLAMES TO WATCH:
Calgary also bolstered their offensive attack in the summer. At 28th in the NHL in goals scored last season, the team felt a need to get more dangerous up front and did just that by acquiring Alex Tanguay from Colorado at the NHL draft. Tanguay should help take some pressure off Jarome Iginla and, as he showed on September 23rd with a two-point performance in Calgarys 2-1 pre-season win over Edmonton, he can both score and set up goals from almost anywhere on the ice.
Edmonton–The Oilers are healthy. Calgary–Defenceman Rhett Warrener (knee) is out and forwards Stephane Yelle (leg) and Eric Nystrom are questionable.
Since joining the NHL in 1979-80, the Oilers have compiled a record of 13-9-4 (.577) in season-opening games. The Oilers are 11-5-3 (.694) when their season opener is at home and 2-4-1 (.357) when the season opener takes place on the road Heading into tonights game, the Oilers are unbeaten in their last six home openers. Last season, the club opened with a 4-3 win over Colorado at Rexall Place. Overall, Edmonton is 14-7-5 (.635) in home openers through 26 seasons The Oilers have opened their season against Calgary three times with a record of 1-2-0. Most recently, the Flames blanked Edmonton 1-0 to start the 2001-02 campaign.
"Whoever we matchup against, it's going to be favourable, I'd think. There's no reason why we can't be the most productive third line in the league. Those guys are great to play with. I've played with both of them. They both work extremely hard. They're both good positionally. They both shoot the puck great."- Oilers forward Ethan Moreau, who will start the season on a potent third line with Jarret Stoll and Fernando Pisani.UP NEXT:
These two teams meet again in two days, this time for Calgary's home opener on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. (CBC).