A three-game winning streak, even if the last two came against the doormat Ottawa Senators, has the Edmonton Oilers feeling confident.
But a Battle of Alberta meeting on Saturday in Calgary against the Flames has the Oilers amped up.
The Flames and Oilers meet for the first time in this season’s all-divisional action format knowing full well the importance of every clash. After all, both teams are likely to be in the mix for a playoff spot, but could just as easily fall short.
“It shouldn’t be a hard one to get up for against Calgary,” said Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie, who’ll skate in a Battle of Alberta for the first time. “It’s been a great rivalry for a long time and obviously it boiled over a bit last year. I’m sure that’s going to carry over. I’ve always liked playing against Calgary, so hopefully I can get into it a little bit. It should be a lot of fun.”
Last time the Flames and Oilers met, the game turned into an old-school rivalry clash, with even the goaltenders dropping the gloves amidst a line brawl.
“Both teams have come a long way. We each have really good teams. There is a lot of emotion in those games,” said Oilers forward Alex Chiasson, who has been on both sides of the coin. “And because the two teams have been more dangerous, each of the games means a little bit more.”
The Flames, who lost that last meeting just over one year ago, return home after dropping two straight games to the Winnipeg Jets, including a 4-1 road loss at Winnipeg on Thursday.
On top of those struggles, they have a mini-controversy on their hands surrounding 2014 first round draft pick Sam Bennett. Bennett, whose agent reportedly requested a trade, was a surprising healthy scratch last game but likely to return to the lineup with fourth-line center Derek Ryan sidelined after being hit in the hand when he blocked a shot.
Bennett didn’t want to address the trade request, but admitted he was caught off guard by being scratched in Winnipeg, even though he’s managed just one point and a minus-5 rating in nine games this season.
“I won’t go into detail about what was said. I didn’t see it coming. I walked in and was on the taxi squad and not dressing with the team, not skating with the team. I was surprised by that,” he said. “I don’t really know the reasoning — if they wanted to play games or whatever. My focus is on playing my game when I get the chance and that’s all I can control.”
While it looks like a Bennett trade will eventually happen, the Flames are more concerned about their struggles, with five losses in the last seven games.
“We’ve got to get better or we can stay bitter,” coach Geoff Ward said. “That’s really our choice and it starts with us being harder. Right now, we’re soft in a lot of areas of the hockey game. Let’s start there. We’ve got to raise our compete level.”
“We’re not playing as a unit of five out there,” added defenseman Rasmus Andersson. “It cost us one or two goals in the second period (on Thursday) and, obviously, working uphill all third period, it’s tough. It’s tough to do that every other game. It sounds ridiculous because I think we’ve said it a million times, but we’ve got to play a full 60 minutes.”
–Field Level Media