PREVIEW: EDMONTON vs. CALGARY
THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers had a lengthy morning skate that lasted about 40 minutes. Generally, last season a morning skate would be under 30.
Tom Renney put the team through the paces with head coach Pat Quinn feeling a bit under the weather.
Quinn did address the media after the skate, though.
"I haven't had that real-life meaningful game yet other than exhibition games where you're trying to prepare them," said Quinn. "I have expectations but most of those are built around what people have told me."
The forward lines were similar to how they've been all week. J-F Jacques plays with Shawn Horcoff
and Ales Hemsky
, Patrick O'Sullivan with Mike Comrie and Ryan Stone
, Dustin Penner
with Gilbert Brule
and Andrew Cogliano
plus Sam Gagner
centering Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini
Quinn didn't want any labels for the lines, noting that how the lines play each night will determine the ranking.
"One of the things we've decided is we're not going to load up one, two lines. We're going to try and get some depth in our lineup and be a four-line team," he said. "That would be not numbering the lines so much."
The defence pairings looked familiar to Oilers fans. Ladislav Smid
with Steve Staios, Sheldon Souray
with Lubomir Visnovsky and Tom Gilbert
with Denis Grebeshkov.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
Season Series -- Edmonton and Calgary split last year's season series, with the Flames taking a 4-1 win to salvage the tie in their last meeting on April 11, 2009.
Big Story --
While the Flames already opened their schedule on Thursday, hockey season may as well not be underway in Calgary
until they've faced the Oilers. Edmonton
's opener on Saturday night marks the first act of this year's renewal of the Battle of Alberta.
After a season that was expected to see the Oilers return to the playoffs, things went south in a hurry. After letting coach Craig MacTavish go following a third straight spring of early tee times, the Oil revamped and recharged in the offseason, bringing in Pat Quinn behind the bench and signing the ageless Nikolai Khabibulin
away from Chicago
to stand between the pipes. Edmonton
's biggest offseason story may have been a splash that wasn't, as a deal to bring in Dany Heatley from Ottawa
was nixed by the disgruntled winger. But with an ever maturing stable of flashy young playmakers like Sam Gagner
and Andrew Cogliano
gaining more experience, the Oilers may yet climb their way back to the top eight. The responsibility for that will fall on Quinn's shoulders, and he can handle the weight. Saturday's opener will be his first chance to prove it.
With new coach Brent Sutter coming back to his home province
, many expect the Flames to be among the cream of the West's crop, and Calgary
looked the part early in its opener Thursday against Vancouver
. The Flames put four pucks past elite goaltender Roberto Luongo to take a commanding lead, but a late rally by the Canucks gave some cause for concern. With opening night jitters out of the way, and the early nerves settled for Calgary
, another late game slip would seem unlikely. The lead may not have held against Vancouver
were it not for the heroics of all-world netminder Miikka Kiprusoff. Kipper made a number of major stops against a team many consider to be a top threat to take the Northwest Division crown. With Kiprusoff playing to that level on a nightly basis, Calgary
could be primed to make a strong start to the year.
Who's Hot --
Mike Comrie was traded after a contract dispute in his first stint in Edmonton
six years ago, but if his finish to the preseason is any indication, Comrie is with the program in his return to the Oil. Comrie tallied three goals in the last three games of September, including two in the preseason finale against Vancouver
. In Calgary
, Kiprusoff's performance in the season opener cannot be understated. The Finn made 39 saves in the win, but saved his best for the final period when he stopped 20 shots.
Injury Report -- Calgary
could be thinner on the blue line as defenceman Cory Sarich is questionable for Saturday night with a bruised foot. For Edmonton, Marc Pouliot (pubic bone) and Fernando Pisani
(back) are expected to be on injured reserve. Ethan Moreau (ankle) is expected to suit up after missing several days of practice this past week.
Stat Pack --
4 - Sutter is bringing his rigid system to Calgary
, which made his Devils among the stingiest units in the League last season. New Jersey
ranked fourth overall in fewest goals allowed, and with marquee pieces such as Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf, Sutter should be more than able to make it work in Alberta
Puck Drop --
If Zack Stortini
can protect Edmonton
's young guns from Calgary
's bruising blueline tandem of Bouwmeester and Phaneuf, the Oilers have the ability to surprise their provincial rivals, but a lineup missing several key players could make it difficult for the Oil to start the new campaign on the right foot.