EDMONTON, AB - There's no doubt blossoming Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear has been amped up to play all five of his NHL games thus far.
But he's admittedly a shred more excited for tomorrow night's showdown as he gets ready to suit up for his first-ever Battle of Alberta against the Calgary Flames. A big smile came across his face when he was asked about the game following Monday's practice before the team hit the road for Cowtown.
"It's a very intense rivalry, so I'm looking very forward to it," Bear said. "Everybody always wants to beat Calgary, right?"
Growing up in Ochapowace, Saskatchewan - about a nine-hour drive from both Edmonton and Calgary - Bear watched plenty of Battle of Alberta games and has a built-in understanding of what it means when orange and blue clashes with red and yellow.
"It's a rivalry you want to be a part of and know how to get up for," he said. "They're pretty intense games, so I want to go out there and play hard."
The 20-year-old made the most notable play of his brief NHL career late in the third period of Saturday's win over the Minnesota Wild, as he back-checked and stole the puck from Mikael Granlund, leading directly to a pivotal Leon Draisaitl power-play goal to make it 3-1 en route to their 4-1 victory.
Bear earned his second NHL assist on the play, which was an encouraging sign for his bench boss as the youngster looks to shore up his defensive game while also making an impact on offence.
"He's getting there," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's certainly not hurting us a lot, but there are segments of his game he knows he has to work on… He's a very fast learner, he's willing to learn, he's got a high IQ and he picks things up quickly, so we think he can continue to improve.
"We're going to play against our rival in Calgary. We'll see how he responds in that game."