The Flames continue their five-game homestand tomorrow night in the third installment of this season's Battle of Alberta and the first on home ice. The Flames are tied for second in the Northwest with their provincial rivals at 6-2-1, and it goes without saying that this is a big game. We all hope to see a follow-up of the resilient effort we witnessed Tuesday against Columbus, and I envision this game going one of two ways:
1) The Oilers come out flying, full of energy fueled by their comeback win against the very same Blue Jackets last night and filled with a thirst for Jarome Iginla's blood. The Flames, who haven't played since Tuesday, look unprepared and lethargic, surrender two quick goals to Edmonton and are forced to play catch-up.
2) The young Oilers get carried away with their bloodlust and succumb to undisciplined play. Stortini and MacIntyre goon it up and the Flames capitalize.
The Oil are clearly still ticked about the "cheap" play that resulted in Sheldon Souray sustaining a concussion, and expressed their feelings in a segment on Sportsnet news where Pat Quinn attempted to clear his name from his media mud-slinging of Iginla a few weeks back. It's understandable, a head injury is serious business--just ask Darcy Tucker--but Iginla has made it clear that he had no intent to injure Souray, and the play was simply an unfortunate result of the fast-paced nature of the game. Whatever the Oilers need to get motivated for the game, I suppose.
Players to watch out for: Dustin Penner--no, you're not hallucinating. Penner collected five points Thursday against the Blue Jackets; Pat Quinn must have promised him a box of Krispy Kremes after the game. Penner has seven goals and seven assists for a total of fourteen points this season, and has been compared to a "young Todd Bertuzzi." Watch your necks, boys, he might snap at any moment.
Edmonton will no doubt ice an enforcer or two in tomorrow's game, so watch for McGrattan and/or Prust to go up against the likes of Stortini and MacIntyre. Jarome Iginla will no doubt have to defend himself against the Oilers' fists of fury--which we all know he's capable of, but would undoubtably rather see the captain pick up where he left off Tuesday, with three points and a +3 rating against the Blue Jackets. The Flames will have to make sure they match the Oilers' intensity to start the game, and Iginla has to be a big part of that.
Elsewhere in the league...
Sergei Gonchar is expected to be out for at least a month with a broken wrist. That's two Russian defencemen down; it appears Operation Take-Out-Potential-Russian-Olympians is nicely underway. Time to start going after the big guns--start hacking away at Ovechkin's ankles Bobby Clarke style, pay off Todd Bertuzzi to take out Pavel Datsyuk during practice and make it look like an accident...the possibilities are endless.
Speaking of Ovechkin, he was fined $1,000 today for his slew-foot on Atlanta's Rich Peverley a day after Evgeni Artyukhin was suspended for three games following a similar play. We all know that a double-standard exists in the NHL regarding punishment of star players and that repeat offenders will be punished more severely than first-timers, but this isn't the first time Ovechkin has disregarded the NHL rulebook. Remember his knee-on-knee hit on Sergei Gonchar in the playoffs? Ovechkin didn't receive so much as a slap on the wrist from the league on the play which tore the Pens blueliner's MCL, and is now being treated as if this is his first offence. I'm all for playing with an edge, but as a player you have to know where to draw the line.
Most people were of the opinion that the Minnesota Wild would struggle to implement new head coach Todd Richards' up-tempo, offence-first system, but not to this degree. Not only can the formerly stingy Wild not find the back of the net, they can't seem to keep the puck out of theirs. With Havlat injured, I wonder if Minny would be willing to take Olli Jokinen off our hands? Half-price...?
Lastly, the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Wings in overtime last night with goals from Matthew Lombardi and Adrian Aucoin. I'll let you mull that one over.