Former Oilers giving Flames big boost ahead of regular season

Tobias Rieder scored twice and Milan Lucic had one against his former team as the Flames beat the Oilers 3-2.

CALGARY – The ink hadn’t dried on his new contract with the Flames when Tobias Rieder put an exclamation mark on his signing Saturday night.

Scoreless in 67 outings with the Oilers a year earlier, the 26-year-old German punctuated his successful tryout with the Flames with two goals against his former squad.

His second broke a 2-2 tie late in the third for the game-winner, which added a level of satisfaction for the former 16-goal scorer who was not offered a chance to return to the Oilers last spring.

“It feels really good – too bad they don’t count,” chuckled Rieder, whose season was punctuated by comments from Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson, who told season ticket holders, “if Toby Rieder would have scored 10 or 12 goals we’d probably be in the playoffs.”

“It gets the confidence up and I think that’s what I needed before the regular season,” Rieder added. “You’re just happy – finally something goes in and goes your way.”

To complete the juicy storyline, another former Oiler, Milan Lucic, also scored midway through an entertaining pre-season tilt at the Dome won 3-2 by the hosts.

In 146 games as Oilers last year the duo combined for just six goals, a total they got halfway to in just one game against their former team.

“For both of us it was a tough year to find the back of the net last year so it was great to see him get rewarded right before the season starts,” said Lucic, who said he had plenty of dialogue with his former teammates on the ice all night.

“It’s great to see. Obviously an exciting 24 hours for him, signing a contract here after a PTO, and getting two big goals after one of those years. It’s always nice to end off the pre-season with a good taste in your mouth.”

The only three additions to the Flames lineup this year are all Oilers, which made it unfortunate Cam Talbot didn’t get in for at least a period to complete the story.

Unfortunately, Talbot and his transferred teammates won’t get another shot at the Oilers until Dec. 27, which is the first time the Battle of Alberta is slated to resume for real.

This one was just for fun, completing both teams’ silly seasons.

For Rieder these games meant everything as he is one of three players on PTOs who made it to the final game. Devante Smith-Pelly was released earlier in the day, leaving Zac Rinaldo as a likely depth signing (and perhaps Andrew MacDonald as well) to start the season.

Rieder’s speed and penalty killing savvy made him one of the biggest stories of Flames camp this fall, leading to the signing of a two-way deal worth the league minimum $700,000 in the NHL, $300,000 in the minors and $400,000 guaranteed.

The Flames have yet to make the deal official.

The players and coaches left after the game for two days of team-building in the mountains Sunday and Monday.

Lucic, who had just six goals last year, scored while on a second power play unit he’ll be a fixture on to start the season. While parked net-side he calmly corralled a Rasmus Andersson rebound and beat Mikko Koskinen.

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• Three days after inking his three-year, $21 million contract, Matthew Tkachuk was welcomed to the Dome by the crowd after being announced as part of the starting lineup. He played alongside his age-old linemates Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik and was on the first PP unit. In the final minute of the first period he proved to be in mid-season form by bowling over Koskinen after being thrown into the crease by Darnell Nurse. All told he played almost 17 minutes in his pre-season debut.

• David Rittich completed a solid pre-season with an impressive 28-save effort. Big Save Dave came up large with significant stops on Leon Draisaitl and twice on Zack Kassian to end his tuneup season, allowing just three goals in 60 shots overs three games — a far cry from the rust he showed a year earlier in pre-season. The only blemishes on the night were redirects by Gaeten Haas and Kassian midway through the third period to tie the game 2-2.

• Connor McDavid said earlier in the day he was hoping to play in the game, but was shut down by the Oilers coaches who kept him in Edmonton. The last time McDavid played a regular season game was the season-finale at the Dome where he left early with a significant knee injury after crashing into the net.

• Backlund left the game in the second period and was getting treatment after the game for an injury Peters said he hadn’t been updated on before his post-game scrum.

• The two former Flames players who relocated up north this season were not part of the game as Mike Smith sat as the backup and James Neal didn’t make the trip. Yet another former Flame, Alex Chiasson, drew the ire of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie late, prompting a heated exchange and shoves after Chiasson dumped Frolik at centre ice.


The regular season baby!

Calgary opens the season Thursday in Colorado where the Flames fizzled in five games of the first round last year.

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