Flames, Oilers meet again in Battle of Alberta
Whenever the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames meet in the Battle of Alberta, the games always feature plenty of on-ice fireworks. And with both teams playing well in recent weeks, that intensity should be magnified.
Looking to avenge a loss in the first matchup this season, the Oilers go for their fifth straight home win over the Western Conference-leading Flames on Sunday night.
The provincial rivals met on Nov. 17 in Calgary where Elias Lindholm scored twice in the third period to lift the Flames to a 4-2 win. The teams combined for 56 penalty minutes with Edmonton accounting for 41 of them. Rugged Oilers forward Zack Kassian drew a rare triple minor for roughing and the first of two misconducts in the final minute of the first period.
“That was an emotional game. A lot going on in the first period that translated to a good hockey game,” Oilers winger Alex Chiasson said.
Three days after that initial matchup, Edmonton (15-12-2) tapped Ken Hitchcock to replace Todd McLellan and the team started to turn things around. With a 7-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, the Oilers have won five of six and improved to 6-2-1 under their new bench boss.
“Our conscience and our disposition on the ice is starting to round into a form where you can go into every game thinking you’ve got a real chance to win and we’re starting to show those signs,” Hitchcock said.
While Edmonton has dropped three straight in the series and all in Calgary, the Flames are looking for their first road win in the rivalry since Joni Ortio made 28 saves in a 5-0 victory on April 2, 2016.
During the offseason, Calgary (19-9-2) made a coaching change, replacing Glen Gulutzan — now an Oilers assistant — with Bill Peters and that move is paying off handsomely. With a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday, the Flames are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.
“Looking at their squad, they have a lot of offensively gifted players,” Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson noted Saturday.
Gaudreau has four straight multipoint games, totaling two goals and eight assists. Lindholm has collected two points in five straight contests, including five goals in his last four games.
Monahan logged five goals while Tkachuk has six points, including five helpers, over the last five contests.
Calgary will be without captain Mark Giordano as he finishes his two-game suspension for a hit on Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu during the Flames’ 2-0 win on Thursday night. Giordano leads the team — and all NHL defensemen this season — with 26 assists in 29 games is one point shy of 30.
Center Mikael Backlund (17 points) will miss his second straight game with a concussion.
Peters noted his club’s confidence up and down the bench.
“I think our older guys, our veteran guys, are very mature. They have a lot of experience in the league and our young guys are gaining that experience. The confidence they have in each other is important,” he said Saturday.
Regardless of who’s on the ice, Larsson expects another tough game from both sides.
“It’s a Battle of Alberta, so it’s always intense. The fans are intense too and the players are ramped up for it,” he said. “They’re playing really well. We have played real well lately. I think it’s going to be a good intense game with two good teams.”