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Preview: Calgary Flames @ Edmonton Oilers: HOCKEY IS BACK!!!

The Flames and Oilers prepare for the playoffs with a quick exhibition tune up at Rogers Place.

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Calgary Flames @ Edmonton Oilers, 8:30 PM MT,

Rogers Place, Edmonton AB

TV: NHL Network, NHL TV, Sportsnet, Radio: SN960

Calgary Flames (36-26-7, 79 Points) - Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 Points)

The Flames and Oilers will finally return to the ice as the NHL’s RTP is about to get underway. While this could end up being a Western Conference Playoff match-up at some point this is just an exhibition tune up for both teams. Odd that the NHL would pair these two up right out of the gate, but I guess if you’re going to go ahead and play hockey, you might as well go at full speed.

The Flames last played on March 8th and fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 5-3. None of that really matters now, it’s just some perspective as to how long it’s been since the Flames last played. The season didn’t officially shut down until March 12th, so it’s been a little longer for the Flames as they had a three day break before everything was put on hold. Calgary “finished” the regular season in third place in the Pacific, four points behind, you guessed it, the Oilers.

The Flames were playing “OK” as the COVID-19 crisis was brewing, going 6-3-1 and winning three of their last four. In their last four wins of the regular season Calgary was averaging 3.5 goals per game, but were giving up 4.25 goals per game in their last four losses. So, average play at best and that will certainly need to correct itself as things heat up.

Edmonton comes into this game as the “host” for all of the Western Conference Playoffs as Rogers Place (despite it’s flooding issue) will be the arena that bears the burden of all the West playoff games AND the Stanley Cup Finals. The Oilers haven’t seen the ice since March 11th when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets, which put their regular season record at 37-25-9, good enough for second place in the Pacific Division.

The Oilers were carried all season by the offensive juggernaut duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. In 71 games Draisaitl racked up and unimaginable 110 points while McDavid finished second on the team with 97. After that the points tended to dry up with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pulling in 61 and the next highest point producer was Oscar Klefbom at 34. Not the most balanced of scoring, but if you can’t stop McDavid and Draisaitl, you’re going to have a bad time.

The Flames and Oilers met four times during the regular season with the Flames owning a commanding 3-1-0 record. Calgary and Edmonton last met on February 1st with the Oilers exacting some revenge in an 8-3 beat down of Calgary. That game will be remembered less for the 11 total goals, but more for the fight between Mike Smith and Cam Talbot. These games are almost always contentious and the 2019-20 season was proof of that. Besides the goalie fight drama there was also the Matthew Tkachuk/Zack Kassian feud, Sean Monahan’s first NHL scrap and David Rittich’s SOW stick toss. So, you know, pile all that on top of two teams and fan bases that hate each other and you always get interesting hockey.

Did we mention this all leads up to an exhibition game? What this really comes down to is two teams who will be hitting the ice rusty and seeing where they stand and what needs to be worked on. Edmonton will clearly be trying to jump start their Dynamic Duo to get that train rolling while the Flames will be looking to see how healthy David Rittich is (allegedly he’s fine) as he played banged up down the stretch. Calgary will also be looking to get Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan firing on all cylinders as they will be a big reason whether the Flames fail or succeed in their series against Winnipeg.

Team Leaders

Flames - Goals: Lindholm (29), Points: Tkachuk (61), PIM: Tkachuk (74), Save%: Talbot (.919)

Oilers - Goals: Draisaitl (43), Points: Draisaitl (110), PIM: Kassian (69), Save%: Koskinen (.917)

What’s Happening With The Opposition?

Edmonton Oilers: Copper & Blue

Players To Watch

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

I think tonight is all about players getting tuned up and for the Flames, David Rittich has to be the player to watch. The Flames goalie lost his last three starts, giving up four goals in each game. Rittich was playing hurt and appears to be ready to go, so hopefully he’ll see enough action tonight to put some minds at ease. As for the Oilers, I think it has to be Leon Draisaitl. The Edmonton centre was goalless in his last five games, collecting only three assists and they’ll need him to be at the top of his game if Edmonton is going to advance past Chicago.