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The Battle of Alberta finally gets underway for the 2019-20 season, and both teams are hungry for a win.
The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers reignite their decades-old rivalry in Edmonton on Friday, after each entered the short Christmas break with a loss on the road. The Flames were shut out 3-0 by the Minnesota Wild on Monday, while the Oilers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Canucks in Vancouver.
Both teams are struggling to find the consistency they need to inch up the Western Conference standings.
Oilers head coach Dave Tippett had some harsh words for his crew following Monday’s loss.
“It’s the details of winning,” he said. “If you’re not willing to do them enough, you’re going to lose some games, and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Oilers held a 2-1 lead going into the third period with goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom, but gave up three unanswered goals to hand the victory to the Canucks.
It was Edmonton’s 13th game in 24 days, and Connor McDavid, the league’s top point-getter who was held to one assist in Monday’s affair, was looking forward to the few days off for Christmas.
“It’s been a tough stretch of games, honestly,” McDavid said. “Guys are tired, and this break comes at a good time.”
The Flames also needed the break, dropping four of their last five overall and finishing the stretch to the holiday with two games in two days on the road. They beat the Dallas Stars 5-1 on Sunday, but couldn’t muster a single goal against the Wild.
Flames forward Derek Ryan got the puck behind Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, but video review determined he kicked it into the net.
“Everyone plays back-to-backs,” said Cam Talbot, the Flames goaltender who faced 33 shots overall and saw his record drop to 3-7-0 in 11 games this season. “If you’re not feeling it, try to make the easy play, the smart play and get it deep.”
But the Flames aren’t getting consistent production from some of their top guys, like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Gaudreau and Monahan combined for 181 points last season but are on pace for 124 this season.
“We were trying to generate offense,” defenseman and team captain Mark Giordano said. “It seemed like (the Wild’s) back pressure was really good, and we couldn’t get pucks through like we should. So we’ve got to work on that, generate more at their net. We’ll take our break here and go from there.”
The NHL’s best power play will be facing one of the top penalty kills.
The Oilers are 29.8 percent effective on the man advantage, while the Flames rank third at 84.8 percent in killing penalties. The Oilers aren’t too far behind on the PK at 83 percent, while the Flames are in the middle of the pack on the power play at 19.7 percent.
Special teams will only get you so far, though.
When asked recently about his team’s success on the power play, Klefbom told the Edmonton Journal the Oilers have to be better at even strength.
“Obviously our power play has been really effective, but you can’t expect to score every game that way,” Klefbom said. “It’s been our strength … we’re in the top (seven) in PP and PK, but to be a consistent playoff team, going against a heavy team like a St. Louis, Boston, they’re so good five-on-five.”
Klefbom and the Oilers will have the fans behind them on Friday. The Canadian provincial rivals split the season series last year, 2-2, and Calgary holds the all-time regular-season edge at 119-101-18.
–Field Level Media