CALGARY — When a game tightens up the way both teams are promising for Game 2 Friday night, the physical play tends to ramp up as well.
Less ice means more contact, and both teams welcomed that when speaking after the morning skates Friday. Edmonton, in particular, as they are likely the smaller dog in this fight with more to prove on the physicality front.
“They’re a team that’s going to be physical,” Oilers winger Evander Kane said of the Calgary Flames. “They’re going to try to intimidate and try to do a lot of talking, but I thought we handled it pretty well. I think we can be a little bit more physical tonight, push back a little harder. We'll show that to this evening.”
In Game 1, the Flames showed no hesitation to lean on Oilers captain Connor McDavid. Matthew Tkachuk had his glove in McDavid’s kisser whenever possible, and Milan Lucic rocked the Oiler captain with a solid body check that sent McDavid flying.
What is Edmonton’s best recourse when their captain gets some abuse?
“Well, if they’re gonna go after our top guys, we’re gonna go after their top guys,” promised Kane. “I think we didn’t do a good enough job of that last game. We did a good job of sticking up for one each other for one another, (but) I think that’s the best way to handle that.”
As for Lucic, Kane came right to McDavid’s defence after the hit. He’s the smaller man, but Kane did take on Ryan Reaves when he and the big winger had bad blood on their former teams. History says he’d battle Lucic, if push came to shove.
“I don’t know if there's much of a battle there,” Kane said. “I think we would welcome him being on the ice, whenever he is.”
Flames coach Darryl Sutter knows a thing or two about brotherly love.
But did he or any of his brothers offer up the same sort of sibling support that has made Brady Tkachuk the talk of the town the last few days?
“I don’t think we travelled to do it, but we certainly supported one another,” said Sutter, who has six brothers, including five who played in the NHL. “There were a lot of us and we were certainly supportive of our brothers, and that’s what Brady is doing.”
So, while Duane and Brent were busy winning Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders, what was he doing?
“If you were out (of the playoffs), you were home this weekend to help Dad put the crop in, May long (weekend),” said the Jolly Rancher of his family’s farm in Viking, Alberta. “Everybody always asks, ‘What did you say to your brother when you shook his hand?'
“(It was) 'Who’s getting on the tractor Tuesday?'”
There is more mystery around the Oilers' Game 2 lineup than the Flames', who would dearly love to have Chris Tanev back on their blue-line, but likely will not.
It’s impossible to gauge the Oilers lineup from their morning skate, but it appears Warren Foegele might draw in on left wing. Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Barrie did not skate, but both are expected to play.
Here are your projected lines for Game 2.
Sutter insisted before the series started, “It’s not a battle of Alberta,” arguing instead that the north-south matchup is about bringing Albertans together.
Tkachuk illustrated that perfectly on Thursday by going one step further than a heartwarming photo of Flames fans and Harvey the Hound holding a sign of support for five-year-old Ben Stelter, a young Oilers fan suffering from a rare form of brain cancer.
Tkachuk filmed a video, holding the same sign while sending his love to the beloved Oilers fan who has been making videos in support of his club.
“Stuff like that is very close to me, dealing with stuff in Calgary with kids in similar situations,” said Tkachuk, who has seen plenty about how much Stelter means to the Oilers and their fans. “I saw the video of him shooting me in the head (with a Nerf gun), or pretty close to it, so I thought it would be good to make a video back, instead of just a picture.
“Obviously, it’s way bigger than hockey. It doesn’t matter who you are rooting for, we’re cheering him on. We know he doesn’t like us and that’s just what the game brings, but we’re all obviously thinking of him and his family. He’s a true warrior and we’re following him every step while he’s at the games.
“We’re definitely cheering him on and hoping for the best for him.”