In order that you don't miss a moment of tonight's game presented by TELUS, we are asking that you be in your seats by 7:45 p.m. tonight.
HOME OPENER SOLD OUT
Tonight's game presented by TELUS is completely sold out. If you missed out on getting tickets, make sure you don't miss out on Sunday's game against the Panthers. There's still limited pairs available - purchase online.
WIN A TEAM-SIGNED OILERS JERSEY
Earn the most points in Oilers Fantasy Hockey tonight and you will win a team-signed Oilers jersey. Stick around all season for more great prizes throughout the year! Sign up and set your lineup now.
- edmontonoilers.com staff
FLAMES (0-0-0) at OILERS (0-0-0)
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers starting the first day of the season by participating in a 45-minute skate at Rexall Place. Head Coach Tom Renney kept the lines from the past two days intact:
Taylor Hall - Shawn Horcoff - Jordan Eberle
Dustin Penner - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Magnus Paajarvi - Andrew Cogliano - Gilbert Brule
On the fourth line, Renney said it will be a game-time decision whether Ryan Jones or Steve MacIntyre skates with Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini.
Nikolai Khabibulin will start in net, with Devan Dubnyk serving as his back-up.
The dressing room was packed with media Thursday morning, and as expected, most congregated around the three Oilers rookies who will be making their NHL debuts tonight: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle.
When asked about their feelings heading into the game, the rookies repeated one word: "excited."
"It's something I've been looking forward to ever since I got drafted here and now it's finally here," Hall said. "I'm not too nervous, I'm just very excited for this opportunity and I'm glad my family's here to see the moment."
Eberle and Paajarvi admitted to some nerves but said they are focused on the task at hand.
"Every kid dreams of playing in their first NHL game; it's obviously pretty exciting," Eberle said. "It'll be a game where we're probably going to have to get the jitters out early and kind of get that first shift out of the way, but after that, kind of settle into the pace of the game and do what got us here."
"It's just a couple of hours now so I'm probably going to be nervous before, but once I'm in the game, I don't think it's going to be a problem," Paajarvi added.
The veterans can relate to the rookie experience.
"I remember my first NHL game, it's a dream come true," Ryan Whitney said. "It goes by quick and you can't even feel your legs a little bit, but these guys are pretty mature for their age and I'm excited."
Renney is confident the rookies are ready for their debut.
"I think that they're all obviously ready to go, they feel comfortable about going," the Head Coach said. "I think they're three guys that will certainly work hard, they'll do everything they can to play to their strengths, which we'll encourage, naturally.
"We're in this together and we're going to mess up here and there, but if we play the game properly we'll always be in a position to cover up for each other, and those three guys certainly need to know that too so they can go play."
Also Thursday morning, the Oilers named their alternate captains: Whitney and Ales Hemsky will wear the 'A' and take a leadership role with captain Shawn Horcoff, on and off the ice.
Season series: Calgary won all six meetings last season between these Northwest Division rivals, the first time in the 29-year history of the Battle of Alberta that one team swept the series. The Flames got off on the right foot by winning a pair of shootouts by 4-3 final scores in the first eight days of the season. Miikka Kiprusoff was in net for five of the victories and Rene Bourque led all scorers with 6 goals, including a hat trick in a 4-1 win at Rexall Place on Dec. 28, 2009.
Big story: A pair of teams that didn't qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season ago start the 2010-11 campaign with much higher hopes. The Flames finished in a tie for ninth in the Western Conference, five points behind the eighth-place Avalanche, while the Oilers managed just 62 points, 30th and last in the entire League. However, they ended up with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, which they turned into Taylor Hall. He's expected to make his NHL debut Thursday, along with fellow rookies Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi.
Flames: Scoring goals was not a team strength for Calgary last season -- the Flames' average of 2.45 goals per game was better only than the Bruins' meager 2.39 output. They hope the offseason reacquisitions of Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay ignite the offense in general, and captain Jarome Iginla in particular. His 32 goals and 69 points in 2009-10 were nothing to sneeze at, but this is a guy who put up 89, 98 and 94 points the three seasons prior. Kiprusoff will keep the Flames in almost every game, but he can only stop pucks, not put them in the opposing net.
"It feels good. It's been a good preseason," Iginla said after the Flames beat the Oilers 1-0 on Sunday in the preseason finale for both teams. "We've adjusted things, we've worked on things and we're going to continue to do that. There were a lot of real positives out of this training camp."
Oilers: After a surprise run all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, it's been downhill for Edmonton ever since, and rock bottom seemed to arrive last season. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, the big offseason signing, only played in 18 games before back problems which ultimately required surgery ended his season. He's healthy again and the young trio of Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi are expected to energize the team and the province. New coach Tom Renney had Hall and Eberle on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Paajarvi playing alongside Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule during practice Tuesday.
"He's a great guy and he's done such a great job with me and Eberle," Hall said of Horcoff, who was named captain Wednesday. "It's just the little things that he does, just talking to me on the side and showing me drills and stuff like that that makes it a lot easier for us … I would be cheating myself if I didn't use that experience."
Who's hot: Kiprusoff appeared to be in midseason form Sunday when he stopped all 27 shots he faced and made a Tanguay goal stand up for Calgary. … Paajarvi's 3 goals paced Edmonton during the preseason and his 4 points put him in a five-way tie for the team lead.
Injury report: For the Flames, Jokinen (shoulder) and defenseman Adam Pardy (scratched cornea) is questionable, while forwards Daymond Langkow (neck), Matt Stajan (shoulder), David Moss (shoulder) and Ales Kotalik (knee) are all out. … The Oilers have placed forward Jean-Francois Jacques (back surgery) on injured reserve, while defenseman Ladislav Smid (nose/neck) is questionable.
Stat pack: Brendan Morrison, who just signed with Calgary on Monday, is a veteran of 829 NHL games with New Jersey, Vancouver, Anaheim, Dallas and Washington, recording 187 goals and 547 points. … Dustin Penner led Edmonton in almost all offensive categories last season, including goals (32), assists (31), points (63), power-play goals (9), shots (203) and shooting percentage (15.8 percent).
Puck drop: The Flames won all seven of their preseason games, but they're also a little banged up as the regular season commences.
"Someone asked today if you could be 0-7 in the preseason and have those five guys healthy or be 7-0 and have five guys hurt right now, which would you take?" assistant general manager Jay Feaster told the Calgary Herald. "I like winning. It makes for a more pleasant atmosphere around here when we win. But having those guys healthy would be great and that's where we want to be.
"At some point it's going to happen, but it's not going to happen in time for our opening roster."
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com