PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Flames
Oilers continue five-game homestand against the Calgary Flames
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INSIDE THE OILERSOilers call up Anton Belov on Friday. More on that, line combinations and other storylines.
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Tonight the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames will take the ice in a rematch of their November 16, showdown which ended in a 4-2 third period comeback decision for boys in blue and orange. Edmonton, who is 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, has been playing very well since that first Battle of Alberta matchup of the season.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
"Those guys are pumped," said Calgary Head Coach Bob Hartley. "They have been playing better, I think that we have been playing better also. I think the table is set for a good matchup."
This will be the Flames first visit to Rexall Place this season and the Oilers are eager to make it a hostile environment for their intra-provincial rivals.
"There's obviously a rivalry there," said Edmonton centre Sam Gagner. "The fan support for both teams has always been great. There's always a battle there. For us, we need to make sure that we come out with that intensity and bring that right off the bat. I think it's important for us to make sure that these games are high intensity and we use them to try to get into a playoff atmosphere. The fan support is going to be great and make sure tonight is a big night for us."
"There's no easy night, that's for sure, especially with the battle of Alberta," added Oilers forward Ryan Smyth. "They're going to come out hungry and hard and they've got (team captain Mark Giordano) back. Points are points. Whether you are lower in the standings or higher in the standings, you've just got to keep climbing."
Calgary is coming off a 3-2 loss to Colorado last night, at home. The Oilers defeated the Colorado Avalanche in their last game, two nights ago, 8-2.
THE RETURN OF LADI
The Oilers made a rare trade with their rivals earlier this season, which sent long-time defenceman Ladislav Smid to Calgary. Smid had played as a member of the Edmonton Oilers since the 2006-2007 season.
This will be his first game in Rexall, played as a member of the Flames.
"It's a little weird," said Smid. "But at the same time, I'm really excited to come back here and play my former team, obviously. We had a tough game yesterday and we're here to bring two points back to Calgary. We need that, we need to climb up the standings. It's all business here."
A former teammate of Smid, Ryan Smyth, weighed in on what the defenceman may be facing tonight.
"Probably mixed emotions," said Smyth. "It's going to be tough the first few shifts, then he'll probably settle in and get used to it."
Coach Hartley has some solid reviews on Smid, since he became a member of the Flames.
"He's been great," said the Calgary bench boss. "Smid fills a whole that we needed. A solid presence on the back side, not flashy, tough to play against and blocks shots. I think that it was a real good fit and we needed a defenceman like Ladislav."
LANDER BRINGING CONFIDENCE
Oilers fans should be rooting for a player like Anton Lander. A young prospect and former second round pick, 40th overall in 2009, who is looking to show he belongs in the NHL.
Lander, who was named captain of the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons this season, played 11:40 against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and was 67% in the face-off dot.
"I felt okay but the most important thing was the big win," Lander said as he described his first NHL game since being recalled on Wednesday. "It was really great for us. It was fun to get back and play in Rexall again."
Lander had five points in his last five games in OKC and has 15 points, including nine goals, in 18 games in the AHL this season. In getting his second straight game with the Oilers, Lander hopes to bring the confidence he's been gaining in OKC to NHL ice.
"I'm just trying to bring that confidence I had down in the AHL and play hard on the puck and finish my checks," said the 22 year-old. "I think that's something I didn't really do at the beginning of the year, and it's something that I've been working on."
Being a captain and playing top-line minutes in OKC is what has given Lander that confidence.
"You get a lot more confidence when you play a lot. The coaches trust you and you play big minutes. I've been playing with good players down there too and having a good time down there."
Despite not skating this morning due to illness, Jason LaBarbera is reportedly going to back up Devan Dubnyk tonight against Calgary.
The lineup for the Oilers remains relatively unchanged from their last game, against Colorado.
Call ups, Anton Lander and Martin Marincin will each stay in the lineup while Jeff Petry looks to replace Corey Potter on the blue line after sitting out a game.
For full lineups from today's morning skate, check out the Inside the Oilers blog.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
FLAMES (10-13-4) at OILERS (10-18-2)
Last 10: Calgary 4-4-2; Edmonton 6-4-0
Season series: The Calgary Flames make their first visit of the season to Rexall Place looking for some payback after the Edmonton Oilers scored four times in the third period for a 4-2 victory at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 16.
Big story: There's always plenty emotion in the Battle of Alberta. Each team needs a victory to avoid falling further out of the playoff race.
Flames: Karri Ramo was superb in back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, and carried a shutout into the late stages of the Flames' home game against the Colorado Avalanche. But a puckhandling mistake led to Max Talbot's goal at the 18-minute mark. Talbot set up PA Parenteau's go-ahead goal 54 seconds later and the Flames ended up with a 3-2 loss.
"I just played it to the wrong side," Ramo said of Talbot's goal. "I should have played it to the backhand. They got momentum and scored three goals, so it was a big game-changing moment there.
"It's hockey. Mistakes cost goals. My overall game was all right, but those mistakes are what counts and I have to avoid those."
Oilers: Edmonton's last game was also against the Avalanche, but the outcome couldn't have been much different. The Oilers got a hat trick by Taylor Hall and blew away the Avalanche 8-2 in their biggest offensive night of the season.
Edmonton has 15 of its 81 non-shootout goals in victories against the Avalanche and the Columbus Blue Jackets (7-0). The Oilers have 66 in their other 28 games.
"There is tremendous amount of skill here and we have to utilize it on a daily basis," said forward Ryan Smyth, who assisted on three goals. "We can't just sporadically use it. If we get consistent at it, we're going to be successful."
Injury report: Forwards Joe Colborne (flu) and Brian McGrattan (lower body) missed the game Friday for Calgary, which was already without forwardsCurtis Glencross (knee) and TJ Galiardi (back spasms), center Sean Monahan (fractured foot) and defensemanDennis Wideman (fractured hand). … Oilers forward Boyd Gordon (shoulder) has missed three games. Goalies Ilya Bryzgalov (possible concussion) and Richard Bachman (lower body) and forward Tyler Pitlick (knee) are out.
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com