The ten day break given to the Edmonton Oilers for the annual NHL All-Star weekend and bye week is now in the rear view mirror. The Oilers return to action tonight as they open a difficult stretch of games against some of the top teams in the west. Tonight, it is round three of the ‘Battle of Alberta’.
It is the second and final meeting between the sides in Edmonton this season, and third of five overall meetings between the teams. The Flames have taken each of the first two games, both in regulation time.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while David Rittich gets the go for the Flames.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: The Oilers need to have a better start tonight. In each of the previous two meetings with the Flames, Edmonton has fallen behind early and had to play catch up. You won’t win many games playing that way. They’ll need to be ready right from the drop of the puck if they want to get on the board in this series.
Calgary: Get a save. The Flames outplayed the Blues last night, but Cam Talbot struggled mightily and Calgary suffered a shootout loss. They’ll need Rittich on his game this evening. The Oilers offense is clicking right now and could pose a problem. The Flames will have no prayer without strong goaltending, no matter who the opponent is.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Zack Kassian returns to the lineup following his two-game suspension for actions back on January 11th against the Flames. He slides right back onto the top line and will no doubt be counted on to contribute this evening. Kassian needs to be smart, the Oilers can’t afford to gift the Flames powerplays. Can Kassian play an effective physical game without hurting his club? Can he handle this moment and the emotion that comes with it?
Calgary: Buddy Robinson looks like the classic “recall an enforcer before a rivalry game” player. At 28, Robinson isn’t an impact prospect. He’s third on the Stockton Heat in points with 30 (16-14-30), however, and is more than a physical player. I’m not even sure we can call him an enforcer, that really isn’t his game. Robinson played a bit with Johnny Gaudreau last night. Where will he fit tonight?
Matt Benning is off the IR and will play his first game since December 1st. Jujhar Khaira, a healthy scratch the last three games, also returns to the lineup. Sam Gagner, Patrick Russell and Caleb Jones are the expected healthy scratches for the Oilers tonight.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Joakim Nygard – Riley Sheahan – Josh Archibald
Jujhar Khaira – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
The Flames played last night, so their lines are subject to change and based off of that game. Zac Rinaldo did not play on Tuesday but is a candidate to dress tonight, considering the circumstances. Juuso Valimaki remains on IR.
Calgary Flames Lines:
Andrew Mangiapane – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Derek Ryan
Sam Bennett – Mikael Backlund – Buddy Robinson
Milan Lucic – Mark Jankowski – Dillon Dube
Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington – Rasmus Andersson
The last time the Flames were in Edmonton, the Oilers were flat out embarrassed. Calgary was up 1-0 less than a minute into the game, and the Flames waltzed to an easy 5-1 victory on the road. That game seemed to wake up the Oilers. Edmonton is 6-1-1 in their last eight games since the blowout loss.
The stars seem to thrive in this heated rivalry. Connor McDavid has 13 career goals against the Flames, including his highlight reel marker on January 11th. That is the most he has against any single opponent in the NHL. Gaudreau has ten career goals against the Oilers, also the most against a single opponent in the league.
The Oilers are currently three points behind the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Pacific Division. The Canucks edged the St. Louis Blues on Monday to build that cushion. They also sit a point behind Calgary, who has played two more games. The Flames picked up that edge via a shootout loss last night against those same Blues.