Not surprisingly, the Edmonton Oilers are still in the hunt for their first win of the 2015-16 season. And tonight, they are preparing to visit to Scotiabank’s Saddledome to face off with the Calgary Flames. So far, Edmonton has badly lost all four of its games by two or more goals after losing again to the visiting Blues this past Thursday. But the other Alberta team is has not done much better by not yet having won a game in regulation after it lost 3-1 at Winnipeg last night.
The Oilers would like nothing more than to get their first victory of 2015-16 campaign against their rival, the Flames. The provincial rivals always have great contests no matter what their standing, this being the first installment of the Battle of Alberta of this season, it should be a hard fought battle.
The Oilers have not been able to find their groove offensively, scoring a sad total of five goals. One scored by the already infamous, 2015 first overall draft pick, rookie Connor McDavid. Calgary’s rough start is a bit more perplexing since their hot post-season run last year. The Flames will play hard and look to make a quick turnaround after allowing three unanswered goals, including two in the final 88 seconds of the third period in Winnipeg.
The Oilers’ early woes can be attributed to their inept power-play performances. Edmonton is only 1-for-14 with a man advantage in the 2015-16 campaign. On Thursday against St. Louis they had five power-play opportunities yet couldn’t find the back of the net, but how could they, with only six shots.
“You can talk about getting momentum from a power play but who cares? It’s about scoring,” said Oiler forward Taylor Hall to local media. “It’s about putting the puck in the net. It’s a bit of puck-luck and our fault.”
Calgary also has excuses, their center, Lance Bouma suffered a broken fibula on Tuesday and is out indefinitely. The Flames are dealing with other injuries too, from forward Joe Colborne and defenseman T.J. Brodie.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley of Bouma. “There’s going to be extra responsibilities, extra roles for others.”
Bouma’s departure has an upside for Josh Jooris returning to the lineup who’s been a healthy scratch, and a roster spot opens up for Markus Granlund who was recalled from Stockton on Wednesday afternoon from the AHL.
Oiler coach, Todd McLellan will probably shake things up on the power play as they try to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Calgary Flames. He knows that Edmonton has missed the playoffs for nine straight seasons and that’s why they hired him. That will be a tough job since the Oil have been outscored 13-5 all the while failing to register a point.
They dropped their first five a year ago too.
“I’m not surprised – I’m a little disappointed – but I’m not surprised,” McLellan told the team’s official website. “The players who haven’t been here for very long, they’re wondering and they’re not sure. Players who have been here for awhile they’re going to be the big ones who are going to dictate where we go, how they react to the four losses.
“We knew that we had a lot of work to do here and that hasn’t changed.”
So tonight, Edmonton is starting to feel some pressure after dropping its home opener and now facing their local rivals.
“I think the whole fan base is impatient right now and we are feeling that right now,” said left winger Hall, who got his first goal of the season two nights ago. “We don’t want to be down 0-4 to start the year. That’s probably the worst-case scenario. When you looked at it mid-summer, this is probably the worst you could have imagined. We have to find a way.”
The Oilers can do that by beating the Flames tonight for the first time since a 2-0 victory at Calgary on Dec. 27, 2013. They’ve been outscored 31-10 while the Flames have dominated the Battle of Alberta of late. So they have something major to prove.
The Flames will be trying to avoid a three-game slide after being outshot 22-9 over the last two periods of Friday’s 3-1 defeat at Winnipeg, in another heated Western rivraly.
“We did lots of good things,” said Hartley to reporters. “We have lots of young players who are learning the game, especially the NHL game, and how to play in late minutes. But they got the last shot and they deserve to win.”
Who deserves to win tonight? We think Edmonton does, and that they’ll get their first win of the season on their biggest rival’s turf.
Our Prediction: Oilers win, 4-2