FLAMES (20-12-5) at OILERS (15-19-4)
Last 10: Calgary 3-5-2; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season series: Fourth of six meetings this season between Northwest Division rivals. They play again on New Year's Eve and conclude the regular-season series on Jan. 30, 2010. So far it's been all Calgary, which has already won a pair of 4-3 games in Edmonton and taken a 5-2 decision on home ice. All three of those games took place in October and featured Miikka Kiprusoff getting the best of Nikolai Khabibulin.
Big story: The Calgary Flames might be just what the doctor ordered for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have lost each of their last six games but the Flames haven't done much better with losses in six of their last seven. Calgary is now the eighth-place target for the Oilers and with two games head-to-head this week they could close that gap from 11 points to seven.
Flames: A four-game homestand for Calgary ended with three straight defeats after a 5-1 loss to Vancouver on Sunday highlighted by a Mason Raymond hat trick. Kiprusoff gave up four goals in the first period and was lifted afterward in favor of Curtis McElhinney. The Flames have dropped six of their last seven and plummeted from first place to third in the Northwest and a precarious eighth in the Western Conference standings.
"You never want to say that as a team you got outcompeted and outworked and we did tonight," said captain Jarome Iginla, whose 20th goal of the season was about the only reason for the home fans to cheer. "They came back and got two quick ones, but even at 2-1, even 3-1, we can't let that happen at home in the first period. We, as players, it's not good enough at home, it's not good enough anywhere. We're definitely embarrassed."
Oilers: One thing that will certainly be different for Edmonton this time around against Calgary is the goaltender. Khabibulin hasn't played since mid-November due to a back injury and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers has been a workhorse in his absence. It's been a weird month for the Oilers, who found themselves right back in the playoff picture after a five-game win streak. But they've followed that up with six consecutive losses to drop back into last in the West.
"We are not a consistent group. We give up on plans quickly. We're a team that's been used to losing -- we hope we never accept it," coach Pat Quinn said.
"We don't stick to a program long, we go to an ad lib, 'I'm going to do it myself' kind of mode. As long as I've been around that never works."
Who's hot: Iginla has three goals and three assists in the last five games for the Flames. He'll be looking to end a five-game goalless streak against the Oilers and a nine-game drought at Rexall Place.
Injury report: Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich is on injured reserve. … In addition to Khabibulin, Edmonton is without defenseman Taylor Chorney and forwards Ales Hemsky, Mike Comrie, Fernando Pisani and Marc Pouliot.
Stat pack: It's safe to say the Oilers would prefer even-strength play right now -- in their last three losses they've yielded seven power-play goals while coming up empty on their own man advantages.
"It's hard to make mistakes when you're in the rut we are," center Ryan Potulny said. "It seems like every mistake we make somehow gets in the back of the net or we make too many mistakes."
Puck drop: Edmonton is in danger of extending its losing streak to the longest since a nine-game skid from Feb. 25-March 15, 2007. The Oilers have been humbled so far this season in the "Battle of Alberta" -- can they turn the tables on Monday?