A 1-3 start to the season certainly doesn’t warrant a push of the panic button for the Calgary Flames, but it does make the club’s upcoming six-game homestand that much more important. Coming off three straight road games in which they were able to take two of a possible six points, the Flames will get to spend the next two weeks in the comfort of their own homes as they will play the role of hosts until a November 3rd trip to Detroit.
The homestand kicks off in style tomorrow night when the Edmonton Oilers pay a visit to the Saddledome for the first of six meetings in this year’s edition of the Battle of Alberta. Despite losing their previous game on Saturday night, the Oilers will be a confident group coming into Tuesday night’s affair after a solid effort in a tight 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks; a game in which rookie phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up his first NHL hat-trick in just the third game of his career.
Calgary on the other hand is coming a tough loss in Toronto where they jumped out to a 2-0 lead only to see the Leafs rally to a 3-2 win. The Flames will need to be on their toes if they are to slow down the young legs of Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and it won’t be an easy task as the trio has been flying and getting better with each passing game.
If they can come out on top against the Oilers, the Flames would have to like their chances of winning, at the very least, four of the six games. While there is no such thing as a gimme in the NHL, every game with the exception of a November 1st meeting with the Canucks, is winnable. After Edmonton departs, Calgary will welcome the Rangers and Predators along with their Vezina-candidate goaltenders to town (Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist) in what should be two very close-checking games with goals likely hard to come by. A split of those two games would set up a nice scenario with next week’s schedule against St. Louis and Colorado and the conclusion of the homestand against Vancouver.
The biggest key to the club’s success over the next six games has to be whether or not captain Jarome Iginla can shake off his early season struggles and return to his all-star form. A notorious slow starter, Iginla has one goal and is without an assist through the Flames first four games. Although the schedule will be fairly busy, the fact that Iginla will be home for the next two weeks will allow him to receive extra attention to the back injury he suffered in the pre-season. A boost in his production, while always important, looms even larger at the moment with the Flames having a hard time generating offense on a consistent basis.
Puck-drop against the Oilers tomorrow night is set for 7:30 for a game that should be hotly contested as both teams will be looking to keep pace in the Northwest division.