With the Flames and Oilers currently occupying the bottom two spots in the Western Conference, the Battle of Alberta is looking more and more like the battle for the basement this season. Things have been on the upswing recently for the Flames, who come into this game on a three-game winning streak hoping that their good fortunes continue tonight when they visit Rexall Place in the second installment of a back-to-back against the Oilers (8PM MT, CBC).
The Flames have dragged themselves to within one game of the .500 mark with their recent streak of 'W's, and could reach the elusive break-even point with a victory against the Oil, who, with five less wins than the Flames and two games in hand, have the Bettman point to thank for the fact that they are just six points behind their divisional rivals.
Edmonton's home record sits at a miserable 6-9-3, a near perfect match for Calgary's poor road performance, as the Flames are 6-11-3 away from the Saddledome. Despite the current disparity in the two team's records, they are scoring at a near identical pace, both altogether and on the powerplay. The fact that the Flames are shooting at an average rate of 4.3 shots more per game than the Oilers indicates that the former have been a tad unlucky at times, which has been rectified slightly in recent games like last night's contest against the Avs, which likely could have gone either way.
As we edge closer to the halfway point of the season, this is another game against an inferior opponent that the Flames have to win if they hope to gain any more ground on the Western Conference's top eight. As the Oilers have proven in previous meetings, it won't come easy. The Oilers have the speed and skill necessary to burn teams when they let up, so the Flames will have to keep their foot on the gas should they find themselves with the lead. The Oilers are missing several key players in likes of Ryan Whitney on defence and Shawn Horcoff up front, so the Flames will need to take advantage of their opportunities to expose these deficiencies.
Lines and Pairings:
Nikolai Khabibulin will likely counter between the pipes for the home team.
Enjoy the game everyone and nurse your New Year's Eve hangovers with care in the comments. Go Flames!