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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, October 5th (All times eastern)

Calgary Flames (0-0-0) at Edmonton Oilers (0-0-0), 10 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The first installment of the 2006-07 "Battle of Alberta" is on tap tonight when the Western Conference-champion Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place in the opener of a home-and-home. The match is the season opener for both clubs.

The Oilers barely had a chance to reflect on their shocking run to the Stanley Cup Finals before grumblings began that defenseman Chris Pronger wanted out of town. The former Hart and Norris winner's wish was eventually granted as he was dealt to Anaheim. Adding to the issue of Pronger's departure was the exit of fellow blueliner Jaroslav Spacek, who also logged key minutes during the playoff run.

Of course, general manager Kevin Lowe wasn't about to give Pronger away. In return he received former first-rounder Joffrey Lupul, who tallied 28 goals in his sophomore NHL season. He also obtained defenseman Ladislav Smid and three high-level draft choices. So, long-term they might make out, but there is no way they can fill this hole in 2006-07.

One key retention Lowe did make was that of goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Roloson, who was acquired from Minnesota before the March trade deadline, was the other reason Edmonton was able to vault from eighth seed to conference champion.

Sergei Samsonov, who was also plucked at the deadline, will not be back, as he left via free agency.

The Oilers will visit the Flames on Saturday.

Defense and goaltending has been the clear strengths of the Flames in recent years, and this summer general manager Darryl Sutter addressed the offensive end. In dealing defenseman Jordan Leopold to Colorado for Alex Tanguay, Sutter landed a top-tier forward who has tallied 79 and 78 points, respectively, in the last two seasons.

Also new to the fold is left wing Jeff Friesen, who is coming off an absolutely dreadful campaign. Friesen, who managed a mere four goals in 51 games with Washington and Anaheim, hopes to get his career as a sniper back on track. It has been some time since Friesen came close to 30 goals, but if the Flames can squeeze close to 20 out of him it would be worth it.

The hope is that the offensive help can provide some support for Jarome Iginla, who tallied 32 goals and 32 assists in 82 games.

Defensively the Flames brought in free agent Andrei Zyuzin to provide depth in a corps led by the likes of Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener and budding two-way stud Dion Phaneuf.

The other big move made by Sutter this summer was his dropping of the head coach title. Sutter remains the GM, but tagged assistant Jim Playfair as his successor behind the bench.

The Flames went 5-3 against Edmonton last season, and won two of the final three meetings at Rexall Place.

10/05 10:30:40 ET


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