Oilers aim to keep rolling in Calgary
After taking care of business at their new home on opening night, the Edmonton Oilers will look to keep things rolling down the road in Calgary on Friday.
New captain Connor McDavid scored twice -- including the game-winning goal on a penalty shot -- and added an assist to lead the Oilers to a 7-4 win over the Flames in the first-ever regular season game at Rogers Place.
Although the Oilers skated to victory in front of 18,347 fans, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said his team will have to play much better in order to win the rematch in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
"There are some areas, a lot of areas of our game, that we're going to have to improve on," said McLellan. "When you're not playing your best, it's nice to win."
While the Oilers remained in Edmonton to practice on Thursday, the Flames returned home to Calgary to get ready for their home opener.
"They won their home game, so now it's on us," Calgary captain Mark Giordano said after being reunited with defense partner T.J. Brodie at Thursday's practice. "We've got to win ours."
The Flames won four of the past five meetings at the Saddledome between the two Alberta rivals.
After enduring a seven-game losing streak to the Flames from March 22, 2014 to Dec. 27, 2015, the Oilers have been more competitive of late, winning three of the past six matchups.
Not only would McLellan like to see the Oilers remain competitive against the Flames, he'd like to see both teams get themselves in a position to vie for playoff spots.
"The Battle of Alberta's huge, it means a lot to both communities and the province," he said. "It's sizzle has diminished a little, likely because both teams haven't been where they need to be -- in the playoff hunt and a potential matchup in the playoffs. We both have work to do. Calgary has work to do, we have work to do, to rekindle that rivalry. But when the two teams meet, now, it's always a special night."
Forward Troy Brouwer, who signed as a free agent in Calgary in the offseason, said he believes that the Flames have what it takes to bounce back on Friday.
"We would like to be a little bit further ahead than we showed tonight," said Brouwer after Wednesday's game. "It's a work in progress. Tonight was not good enough, by far. But we have the guys in here with the desire to get better, to work harder and make sure that collectively we are moving forward."
After Thursday's practice, new Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said that the Flames have to put Wednesday's disappointing loss behind them heading into the back half of the home-and-home series.
"Now that we're past it, we're just going to look ahead at our game and what we need to do on Friday to return the favor," he said. "We didn't execute our game plan. There were lots of turnovers, which feeds their attack, which is high end. They like a lot of chances off the rush and a lot of them we fed them. We need to clean that up."
Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson, who left Wednesday's game after a second-period collision with Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk, was placed on injured reserve on Thursday with an upper-body injury that McLellan stressed wasn't a head injury or a concussion. Also on Thursday, the Oilers recalled defenseman Eric Gryba from the AHL's Bakersfield Condors.