Edmonton Oiler fans have been waiting for some time for the Battle of Alberta with the Calgary Flames to be a little more interesting, or at least more competitive. And while we’re a fair distance from the battle royales of the 80’s, the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta promises to be a good one. Considering the Oilers are currently three points behind the Flames, and both teams are trying to stay in the playoff race, there should be no shortage of motivation on both ends of the ice.
What’s Happened So Far?
The Flames currently lead the season series by two games to one, but the Oilers have been playing decent hockey of late and are due for a victory. If that’s going to happen, a number of things need to fall into place, most notably, the Oiler D will need to play way over its head. Besides the defence, there are a number of other interesting sub-plots to review.
Is Zack Ready To Do Some Damage?
The Oiler’s have needed someone to menace the opposition for sometime, and newly acquired Zack Kassian could fill the role perfectly. If he played the odd shift on the top line, opposite wee Johnny Gaudreau, and bullied him a bit, the results could lead to some dysfunction with the Flames. At any rate, Kassian cleary showed in his last outing he can capably keep up, although his cardio is still lagging a touch. Look for Kassian to make an impact, it’s games like these that the Oilers acquired Kassian for.
Time For Yak To Build Some Momentum
Nail Yakupov had a stormer of a game in his return to the line-up Thursday night against the Sharks (1 goal, lots of energy) and needs to follow it up with a repeat performance. We’ve all seen glimpses of his potential and with a good rest and recovery, he looks re-energized. If he continues to skate hard, throw the body, and shoot whenever the puck is on his stick in the O-zone, good things will happen. Personally I think Yak could add a dimension to his game by re-inventing himself as a modern-day Esa Tikkanen and shadow/check Gaudreau to ineffectiveness. Just a suggestion.
What To Expect From The Flames
Winger Michael Frolik has had three goals against the Oilers this season, but has missed 12 games due to injury. He’s a beast on the PK and highly opportunistic. The Oiler’s should be aware of him. T.J. Brodie has been an Oiler killer this year with a goal and three assists. As is standard, the Oilers will need to stay out of the box and block the point shots to limit the effectiveness of Calgary’s D.
Another Edition Of Dr. Drai vs. Sam I Am
For any true hockey people, this debate was put to rest some time ago. But then Calgary forward Sam Bennet had four goals against the Florida Panthers which has Flames’ fans fired up, thinking they have the best pick from the 2014 entry draft. Bennet is more physical, but that’s pretty much where his advantage ends. The Deutschland Dangler has the size to control the game and is a passing wizard. He’s at a point per game clip and has clearly out-played Bennett in head to head matches so far this season. There is a concern that Draisaitl is lagging a bit energy-wise going into the second half of the season, but the All-Star break will help with that. The latest installment of the Battle of Alberta will be another opportunity for Leon Draisaitl to continue to silence any critics.
Projected Lines For The Oilers
Taylor Hall Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Iro Parkarinen
Benoit Pouliot Leon Draisaitl Jordan Eberle
Teddy Purcell Mark Letestu Zack Kassian
Lauri Korpikoski Anton Lander Nail Yakupov
D – Pairings
Andrej Sekera Mark Fayne
Darnell Nurse Justin Schultz
Brandon Davison Eric Gryba
Goal – Cam Talbot
On the top-line Iiro the Hero continues to try to make the most of his opportunity on the top line while Zack Kassian looks to provide some agitation on the third line. Yakupov on the fourth line may provide an interesting dimension if he can continue to compliment Korpikoski and posibly get Lander going.
On the Defense, Schultz paired with Nurse concerns me somewhat. There is a shortage of right hand D at this time, so perhaps this is the only option. Schultz paired with anyone but a veteran steady presence is a concern to me.