Calgary is falling asleep with pleasure for the Edmonton opener
Waiting is the hardest part for the Calgary Flames.
When the Flames start the season with a street fight against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, they’ll be the last team in the league to drop the puck. By the time the first goal is scored or the check is thrown in the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta, a handful of clubs in the league – including reigning Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs – will have three Have games in the books.
“It gets a little harder to sleep every day,” said striker Dillon Dube of the wait for the game. “But we will be good. The boys will fly with this anticipation. It’s a new season. We have waited a long time for this to prove that we are a good hockey team.” “
The Flames have a lot to prove in this regard after their disappointing 2020-21 season. The team’s inconsistency not only prevented the Flames from making it into the playoffs, but also led to a mid-season coaching change that put Darryl Sutter back behind the bench.
Another disappointing season would likely mean bigger changes, especially with Johnny Gaudreau an outstanding unrestricted free agent and Matthew Tkachuk an outstanding restricted free agent.
“We just have to give in and realize the importance of those first 10 games to get off to a good start and make sure you feel good,” said Gaudreau of the start of the season. “We haven’t done that in the past. It would be great if our team could finally do it and get off to a good start instead of trying to catch up.”
The Oilers opened the season with a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, preparing for Calgary’s energy in the first game.
“They played almost their entire line-up here in the last exhibition game and they are going to play a tough, forward-thinking game like Darryl likes,” said Oilers manager Dave Tippett. “It’s not like we’re not familiar with them. It will be the same as always.”
With the intensity normally seen in the Flames and Oilers clashes, Edmonton is set to receive a physical boost as striker Zack Kassian is set to rebound for the first time since his preseason concussion. Kassian fell on the ice during a fight and passed out after hitting his head. Striker Colton Sceviour is likely to drop out of the line-up.
“I feel good,” said Kassian. “I recovered pretty quickly from the incident and the concussion protocol was in effect for the last week. I ran several tests to make sure I was good to go and everything was positive.”
Kassian’s addition certainly adds courage to the talented Oilers.
“We’ve had our fights over the years and if you include the fans in the mix, it’s going to be a fun night, not just for us players, but for everyone in Alberta. It’s going to be an exciting night,” said Kassian.
The Oilers also expect full-back Slater Koekkoek to skate in place of Kris Russell in the third pairing.