Battle of Alberta Round 2
OILERS (2-1-0) at FLAMES (1-2-0)
TV -- CBC (HD)
It is no secret that the Flames are not off to a strong offensive game this season scoring just two goals in three games. When things aren't clicking where they need to, something has to change. Head coach Brent Sutter is about to do just that in tonight's matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.
"The last seven out of our first nine periods of hockey haven't been up to the standards that we would like," Sutter explained. "So there are some things we're going to address so that we can get there and we have to get there."
Sutter has decided to jumble up the lines for the battle of Alberta in hopes that a something, anything, will ignite a spark to get things going for the Flames. Veteran defenceman Cory Sarich
has been a healthy scratch for all three games giving T.J Brodie a spot. In addition Steve Staios
was also kept out of the line-up for two of the three games. Sutter has decided to scratch Brodie and play both Sarich and Staios.
"I just thought at this point in time, experience might be a key thing right now," said Sutter. "It's about Brodie's development too. He's played three games ok. He's had moments where he's played well and had moments where he's struggled. I think it's a good time after three games of getting the feel for it to just watch certain guys on the ice and how they do things. That is part of developing too."
Sarich will be paired with Giordano and Staios will skate with Bouwmeester.
In addition to the changes to the blue line, the top two lines have shuffled too. Olli Jokinen
has been moved down to center the second line with Niklas Hagman
and Brendan Morrison
"Hags (Hagman) and Olli(Jokinen) hopefully can find some chemistry," said Sutter. "They both are similar type players in the sense they're shooters and maybe there is some similarities there with their games and Mo (Morrison) is kind of a play making guy. He's a good skater and can make plays so hopefully he can help both of them with that. I just wanted to shake it up a little bit.
There is so much talk on the outside about Olli and Jarome and how they don't complement each other. Now the talk will be why aren't they playing together. It makes great stories."
Moving up to the top line is Matt Stajan
centering Jarome Iginla
and Alex Tanguay
"We'll see about Tangs (Tanguay) and Jarome (Iginla)," said Sutter. "If it doesn't work there then we'll have to shake that up too.
"It'll start that way and play will determine who plays with who as we go along."
Season series --
One bugaboo out of the way, one more to go. The Oilers beat the Flames 4-0 in last Friday's home opener, ending a six-game losing streak against their Alberta rivals. Now they have to try their luck in Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Flames hold a five-game winning streak. More important for the Oilers, though, is getting that first win of the season on the road, where they're 2-21-2 since Dec. 11, 2009.
Three games, three different personalities. One team manhandled the Flames 4-0 in the season opener, another rode Nikolai Khabibulin to an otherwise unspectacular 3-2 win over the Panthers and a third gave up four power-play goals in a 4-2 loss to the Wild in Minnesota, but actually played decently five-on-five. Still not enough, though, to prevent a 14th straight loss at Xcel Energy Center.
Everybody wants the first one, but coach Tom Renney is more realistic.
"I'd love to be able to tell you it’s more like our first Calgary game, but I think it's somewhat more like how we played in Minnesota," Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "We've touched some excellence at times but haven't been able to embrace it because we're young and feeling each other out and what we're capable of."
What does a team with the lowest offensive output in the NHL last year not want to do? Start a new season doing much the same thing. With a 3-0 loss to the wayfaring Panthers on Thursday, they are the first team in the NHL to be shut out twice this season, and the top line of Alex Tanguay
, Jarome Iginla
and Olli Jokinen
has yet to record a point.
The situation is urgent enough to warrant a 52-minute team meeting Friday that took up most of the usual off-day practice session.
"You've got to nip this in the bud," defenseman Ian White
told the Calgary Herald. "We've had two real bad games here. We figured out to a man today what each guy has got to do better."
Who's hot --
Captain Shawn Horcoff has been the go-to guy these first three games for the Oilers. He's set the pace offensively with two goals and an assist and has been a calming influence centering a line with Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
Injury report --
Horcoff and Colin Fraser did not skate Friday, taking a "maintenance day" as they had both blocked shots killing penalties in the Minnesota game. They're expected to be ready for Saturday's game. One small piece of good news in Flames camp is that nobody else got hurt in the Panthers game.
Stat pack --
Five-time All-Star and Flames captain Iginla's scoring drought extends back to last season. He's now gone nine games without a point and 14 without a goal, though he did have 2 goals and 2 assists in his last home game against the Oilers. The Flames collectively have outscored the Oilers 23-9 during their five-game home winning streak against them, and are 7-for-15 on the power play. Khabibulin, on the other hand, is 15-4-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average in Calgary, though he lost his only start there so far in an Edmonton uniform.
Puck drop --
"What we're trying to do is stay with the pack," Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "We're going to lose games, lose games ugly, win some silly ones where we don't play great, we'll look schizophrenic, but I want to stay with the pack until Christmas when we don't have any more rookies … where they know the League."