Rev up the engines and listen to that howlin’ roar, it’s go time once again. Tonight the Edmonton Oilers will begin the 2017-18 season the same way they started last year, with a home date against the Calgary Flames. It’ll be the first of five meetings between the sides, who next meet on December 2nd in Calgary.
Jaromir Jagr, who signed in Calgary on Monday, will not be in the lineup tonight as he has yet to report to the team. He’s expected to be in Calgary later today or early tomorrow morning. For the Oilers, tonight will mark the NHL debut for 2017 first round pick Kailer Yamamoto, who is expected to play in the club’s top-six in this contest.
The Oilers will be without Andrej Sekera, who starts the season on IR, and Anton Slepyshev, who was sent to the AHL for a conditioning stint yesterday. Chris Kelly, although without a contract, is still practicing with the club and will stay in town.
Cam Talbot gets the start for the Oilers, while Mike Smith makes his debut for the Flames at the other end.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Test Mike Smith early and often. If the Flames have one weakness it is without a doubt their goaltending. Personally, I don’t think Smith is at all an upgrade on Brian Elliot and he looked rather weak in the preseason. If the Oilers get to him early, it’s very possible it could be another high scoring opener between these two teams.
Calgary: Force Edmonton to the outside and don’t let McDavid walk into the danger zone during this one. Calgary has spent a lot of assets fixing its defense in recent years to combat Edmonton’s dynamic offensive attack. Tonight is the first test for this revamped group, and if they can keep the Oilers to the outside they should be able to negate Edmonton’s high powered attack.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Kailer Yamamoto stunned everyone with a terrific camp to make the Oiler roster and tonight will skate in the club’s top-six. I don’t expect Yamamoto to make the team full-time, but he’s earned this look and it’ll be very interesting to see what he does with it. This young man could be a huge answer to Edmonton’s right wing issues.
Calgary: Travis Hamonic was a preferred target for many Oiler fans, myself included, but ended up a Flame this summer. How will he handle his first Battle of Alberta against one of the NHL’s best offensive groups? That’s a big storyline to watch tonight. Can Hamonic bounce-back after a tough season in Brooklyn last year?
The Oilers, as mentioned, will be without Sekera and Slepyshev tonight. Yohann Auvitu will sit in the press box tonight, while Iiro Pakarinen sits as well.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Kailer Yamamoto
Drake Caggiula – Ryan Strome – Jussi Jokinen
Jujhar Khaira – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
Darnell Nurse – Eric Gryba
On the Calgary side, the Flames won’t have Jagr in the lineup for this game as mentioned above. Tanner Glass, signed by the team yesterday, will make his regular season debut on the fourth line while Hamonic and Smith both make their debuts as well.
Calgary Flames Lines:
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Micheal Ferland
Matt Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik
Kris Versteeg – Sam Bennett – Troy Brouwer
Tanner Glass – Matt Stajan – Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano – Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie – Travis Hamonic
Matt Bartkowski – Michael Stone
Things To Watch:
Last season’s opening night victory was the first for Edmonton since the 2013 lockout shortened season. The last time the Oilers won two regular season openers in a row? The 2011-12 and 2012-13 (lockout shortened) seasons. Both of those victories came in the shootout.
The Oilers are looking to extended their winning streak on the Flames to five straight regular season contests. The Oilers swept the season series four games to none last season. In an extra measure of bragging rights, the Oilers also won both preseason games this year and last year over Calgary.
Todd McLellan will embark on his third season behind the Edmonton bench tonight, making him the longest tenured coach for the organization since Craig MacTavish, who left after the 2008-09 season. The previous long had been two seasons, held by Tom Renney and McLellan.
There will be a lot of emotion in this game tonight and I suspect we see an awfully physical first period between these two teams. Edmonton will carry the play early, but the Flames get on the board first with a weak goal from Matt Stajan. The Oilers tie the contest late in the first on a Leon Draisaitl one-timer from Connor McDavid.
The Oil take an early lead in period two when Zack Kassian is sprung in on a breakaway and beats Mike Smith top shelf, but the Flames tie it minutes last on a controversial tally from Matt Tkachuk. Calgary then takes a lead late in the frame when Travis Hamonic’s point shot deflects off Eric Gryba and into the net.
The Oiler powerplay ties things halfway through the third when Milan Lucic stuffs the loose change past Smith, causing a stir as Smith isn’t happy and takes a penalty off his temper tantrum. That’s where the Oilers strike again, as Kailer Yamamoto rips his first NHL goal past Smith on the powerplay.
Adam Larson seals the deal with the empty net goal as the Oilers take the opener by a final score of 5-3.