pic via: PremierofAlberta
It is a great time of year to be a hockey fan. As is boxing day tradition, I am sure many of us set our cell-phones for a painfully early wake-up on boxing day to take in the most hallowed of holiday traditions, the Spengler Cup. As I am sure you all know, Byron Ritchie helped Canada to a 5-4 win over Viktovice Steel of the Czech league which delighted the entire family I am sure.
It is important to remember that in the eye of the ‘Spengler Hurricane’ as it were, that is the non-stop wall-to-wall coverage of Team Canada in Davos (who will Alexandre Bolduc be playing with?! Is this Glen Metropolit’s last Spengler?!) there is still NHL action to consider, and for Flames fans it doesn’t get much better.
It is the 213th installment of the Battle of Alberta tonight and both teams are coming off big victories. With their respective wins in their last games, the Oilers (12-24-3) just snapped a six-game losing streak while the Flames (14-17-6) won for the first time in four games.
THE LOCAL HEROES
Here is the exact same lineup that shocked the world by erasing a two-goal deficit and beating the Blues in a shootout. Big thanks as always to DailyFaceoff.com for the info.
- Cammalleri – Backlund – Byron
- Galiardi – Stajan – Stempniak
- D. Jones – Colborne – Hudler
- Bouma – Monahan – McGrattan
- Giordano – Smid
- Butler – Brodie
- Breen – O’Brien
After taking a nasty knee-on-knee hit from St. Louis’ David Backes, Many assumed that Matt Stajan would be missing some significant time. Those people forget that Matt Stajan is not just simply a ‘player’ in our little game called ‘ice hockey’. Matt Stajan does not just take up a roster spot and soak up minutes. Matt Stajan is an idea, an idea that can never be defeated by knee, stick, or discouraging word. Matt Stajan makes me want to be a better man.
Because the hockey gods harvest my tears and use them as fuel for the furnace they use to toss ex-Flyer goalies into, Paul Byron might not be able to go tonight after taking a spill in practice. Byron has been playing exceptionally well of late, including a behind the back, no-look pass to Mike Cammalleri in the last game against St. Louis. It does seem as though the accident in practice wasn’t too serious, leaving the ice only for precautionary reasons and will be in the lineup for tonight.
Chris Breen draws in again tonight, so Mark Giordano should prepare to play 59 minutes.
Reto Berra is getting another crack at the Oilers after allowing a Taylor Hall goal when he was less than five seconds away from his first career shutout in his last outing against the Oil. Against St. Louis, Berra was solid, making 32 saves and winning in a shootout. The Oilers will likely try to put a lot of pucks his way tonight as they have had success from let’s say interesting angles against Berra in the past:
Hopefully, Berra has a short memory because that one still stings to watch.
Sean Monahan continues to play on the fourth line while he struggles to re-adjust to game speed after the hairline fracture of his foot. You can look up his numbers over the past few games on ExtraSkater.com but I would recomend that you don’t. Just know that things have not been going very well for the youngster of late. What has masked Monahan’s unceremonious fall from grace has been the ascension of Backlund so it isn’t all bad news down the middle for the Flames.
THAT TEAM UP NORTH
- Hall – RNH – Perron
- Joensuu – Gagner – Eberle
- Smyth – Gordon – Hemsky
- Gadzic – Lander – Yakupov
- Ference – J. Schultz
- N. Schultz – Petry
- Belov – Potter
Both the Flames and Oilers are coming off big victories as the Oil beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 on Monday. A game in which Nail Yakupov finished with two points and 12 minutes in penalties. He seems to be adapting well to his new role, playing with Luke Gadzic.
The Oilers are missing Marc Arcobello to a rib injury and Philip Larsen to the flu which explains why Roman Horak was recalled yesterday. However, it does not look as though the Flames will get to show their Horak tribute video tonight as he will likely be watching from the press box.
The Oilers start beleaguered tender Devan Dubnyk tonight whom is currently sporting a sub .900 SV% and a 3.38 GAA. Dubnyk has had a rough ride this season in Edmonton but it he is hardly the reason that the Oilers are angling for a top-five pick again. However, he has let in some groaners this season from distance, the type of which that gets the fanbase to turn on you in a hurry.
Tactics-wise, tt is the same old story with the Flames and Oilers, they are going to watch to push the pace and turn the game into a track-meet and the Flames will want to try to establish their offensive pressure below the dots. At times this season, the Oilers defense, and the defensive zone coverage from their forwards and in particular their centremen, has been frightening. The Oilers are dead-last in the NHL in goals allowed with 134 and goals allowed per game with 3.44 (though the Flames are third-last so let’s not get too uppity).
SUM IT UP
This particular Battle of the QE2 doesn’t have any post-season implications and it features two of the Western Conference’s worst teams. But who cares? These games mean something. The last two games against the Oilers, the Flames blew leads in the third period which garnered special attention from Brian Burke during his press conference after Jay Feaster’s firing.
I know that we all are realistic about the team this season and most of us have succumb to the idea that losing a lot this season is probably a good thing for the long-term health of this franchise. But you always want to beat the Oiler because, well, it just feels so damn good. So make it happen Flames.
The Puck drops tonight at 7:00 pm MT on SNET West.