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
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
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