The games don’t get any easier for the Edmonton Oilers, as they host provincial rivals the Calgary Flames tonight at Rexall Place. The Oilers are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, with two losses coming against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks. The Flames meanwhile are 4-4-2 in their past 10 games. The Flames are two points out of a playoff spot, while the Oilers are 14 points out.
The Battle of Alberta has been one sided in recent years. Calgary has won all three meetings this year and outscored Edmonton 10-4 in the process. Ever since the Oiler’s 4-0 season-opening victory where Jordan Eberle’s magnificent goal was sighted, the Flames have won eight straight games over the Oilers.
Tom Renney has come under fire in recent weeks for the team’s struggles. Tonight’s game is the perfect opportunity for him to silence the critics and perhaps earn some consideration for a contract extension. Last game he shuffled lines quite a bit, and with the likely return of forward Taylor Hall to the lineup, there should be even more changes. Hall will likely play with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, with Jordan Eberle going with Shawn Horcoff and Magnus Paajarvi.
Other interesting facts about the teams before they square off at 8pm MST tonight:
-Neither team wins over 50% of its faceoffs. The Oilers are at 48.1% while the Flames are at 45%. Something has to give tonight.
-The Oilers actually score more goals/game than the Flames (2.50 compared to 2.33)
-Eric Belanger and Ryan Whitney will be out for the Oilers. Belanger has a leg injury while Whitney’s ankle has acted up.
-The Flames will be without Brendan Morrison, Curtis Glencross and Alex Tanguay. That’s three top-6 forwards.
-The Oilers aren’t very good when scoring first, winning just 52% of the time they score the game’s opening goal. Calgary is better, at 61.9%. The league’s best is the New York Rangers, at 91.3%.
-The Oilers rank 2nd last in the league in winning percentage when outshot, at 28.6%. The Flames are at 41.4%, good for 21st.
There is the preview for tonight’s game. Predictions? I’ll say that Tom Renney fires up the troops, and the return of Taylor Hall only increases the energy and tempo. 2-1 Edmonton Oilers victory.
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