March 22 2014 03:10PM
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is the fifth meeting of the season (and 214th meeting overall) between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. It's their last meeting until next season, too. I'd say the season series is up for grabs, as each team has won twice - the road team always won - but the Flames needed overtime in both wins at Rexall. The Flames need a win to tie the season series in terms of points earned.
That's about as far as this game goes in terms of "significance."
Calgary has 63 points and 12 games left. Edmonton has 59 points and 11 games left. The gap can close considerably with an Edmonton win, while a Calgary win probably cements their draft placement.
THE HOME TEAM
It goes without saying that it's been a disappointing year in Edmonton. I don't think they spent time and money bringing in Dallas Eakins to lead the club to 29th place. The Oilers lost two nights ago to Buffalo, but have been playing solid lately, winning five of their last 10.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Hall - Gagner - Perron
Lander - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Hendricks - Gordon - Pitlick
Gazdic - Smyth - Jones
Ference - Schultz
Marincin - Petry
Klefbom - Fraser
Viktor Fasth gets his first Battle of Alberta start. He was 2-0-0 with a shutout in two games against the Flames while with Anaheim.
The Oilers obviously have some skilled players (that top line, that second line) and are starting to figure out the "depth role player" riddle. That third line is actually pretty solid. But the defense is a bit dodgy, so you can figure out why they are in the general area that they are, standings-wise.
Oddly, Edmonton has the edge on Calgary on the power-play, the penalty kill and in five-on-five goal differential. How come Calgary's higher in the standings? Probably because Calgary's gotten some big contributions from their back-end (Giordano & Brodie, primarily) and some from their depth guys, while Edmonton remains top-heavy.
But if they can ever build something around that top group, wowzers. Granted, we've been saying this for years, but the Oilers could be scary-good if the guys building the team had a plan besides "draft high."
THE ROAD TEAM
The Flames are smarting a bit after last night. On one hand, they scored five goals! On the other, they gave up six. To Nashville, who rarely scores. Yikes.
Lines, via Daily Faceoff:
Cammalleri - Backlund - Byron
Glencross - Stajan - Hudler
Agostino - Monahan - Bouma
Westgarth - Colborne - McGrattan
Giordano - Brodie
Butler - Russell
Smid - Wotherspoon
Karri Ramo returns after being out since before the Olympics with an MCL sprain. Joni Ortio returns to the AHL and Joey MacDonald is the back-up for the rest of the year.
Now that they're getting healthy, the Flames are rapidly beginning to resemble an NHL team. Kenny Agostino makes his Battle of Alberta debut after making his NHL debut last night, playing 12:40 in the loss to the Preds. Returning to the line-up is Kevin Westgarth - slotting in for T.J. Galiardi on the bottom line - and God, I hope Westgarth doesn't try to fight Gazdic again.
The Flames have also won five of their last ten games, so they're about as "hot" as the Edmonton Oilers right now.
SUM IT UP
It's a late-season game between two teams that are well out of the playoff picture! The best each club can hope for some emotion in this tilt, as each group tries to gain some momentum to close out the year.
Let's hope that this time next season, these games have a little bit more significance in the standings, because hockey's better when the Flames and Oilers are both doing well and Alberta is a place visiting teams fear to tread.