Tonight marks the first installment of the 2011-2012 version of the Battle of Alberta, and with the two clubs set to fight for provincial supremacy once again, here are five things to watch for during tonight’s opening contest:
5. Kipper’s Gold: Calgary goaltender Miika Kiprusoff comes into the come with a career record of 28-12-1 against the Oilers and will be looking to continue his dominance in front of the home fans tonight. In 43 career games against Edmonton, Kiprusoff has a 2.13 GAA and a 0.92 save percentage.
4. Change of Fortune?: The Flames dominated the season series a year ago winning five of the six games. For the most part the games were tight with two of Calgary’s wins coming in shootouts, so the Oilers will be hoping for a role reversal in the close games this time around.
3. Old Smythy Returns: The Battle of Alberta has been missing one of it’s favourite soldiers for the last five years. For the first time since the 2006-2007 season, Ryan Smyth will face the Flames as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, and while the youngsters get all the pub in Oil Country these days, the newly-formed line of Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones will be a tough assignment for the Flames D tonight.
2. The Captain Must Ignite the Flame: Jarome Iginla has only one goal and no assists through Calgary’s first four games, and he will need to come alive in short order as the Flames kick off a six-game homestand. If the Flames get off to a good start tonight don’t be surprised if it is Iginla who leads the charge, especially if his career numbers of 32 goals and 75 points in 82 games against the Oilers are any indication.
1. The Kids Are Alright: With Ales Hemsky already on the shelf with a shoulder injury, the Oilers offense is now in the hands of their young stars. Jordan Eberle (21) and Taylor Hall (19) are seasoned veterans compared to their 18-year-old linemate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who through his first four NHL games leads the team in goals with four and points with five. The trio has been dangerous in every Oilers game this year and will look to continue their scoring ways against the veteran Flames defense.
Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.