Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will meet in a meaningful hockey game for the first time since February 1st, 2020. That night, at the Saddledome, Mike Smith and Cam Talbot dropped the gloves, while Ethan Bear took on Matthew Tkachuk, Jujhar Khaira danced with Buddy Robinson, Sam Gagner pissed off everyone in Calgary and the Oilers pumped home eight goals in an 8-3 win. The ‘Battle of Alberta’ was BACK.
This season, the sides will meet ten times, with round one coming at the Saddledome. It’s right back to the scene of the crime just over one year later.
“Our whole talk is about how we’re going to go in there and win,” Coach Dave Tippett said when asked about the matchup on Friday. “We got to play well enough to win. There are things you get your team ready for tactically to win. You know it’s going to be a hard game. The reality is you’re playing playoff games in the regular season; they’re four-point games. That comes into play.”
If these games have a playoff feel to them, just how high is the heat going to be when two teams that genuinely don’t like each other get together?
“I feel like in the olden days, you have these rivalries all the time and now it’s harder to come by,” Kyle Turris said on Friday. “The fact that this is one of the biggest ones, if not the biggest one in the NHL, is really exciting.”
With that being said, veteran Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to pour water on what lies ahead in Calgary. After all, the Oilers need the two points from this game as they look to gain a little cushion in fourth place in the North Division.
“Our whole goal is to go in there and get points out of that game,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Stuff in hockey happens, doesn’t really matter who you play. You saw that at the end of the Ottawa game the other night. Stuff happens and you got to be ready to stand up for your teammates and for yourself. You don’t worry about that stuff going into a game. You got to focus on winning and playing the best that we can play. That’s going to be our mindset (Saturday).”
Sure, winning the fights are nice, but winning the game would do far more damage to a Calgary team that has also gotten out of the gate slow this season.