Flames prepared for all-out war in crucial tilt against desperate Oilers

Ryan Leslie and Eric Francis break down if it's a good time for the Calgary Flames to play the desperate Edmonton Oilers and how the next edition of the Battle of Alberta will shape up this weekend.

The good news, if you’re an Albertan, is that someone has to win Saturday’s provincial clash between Calgary and Edmonton.

That, in itself, is an exciting possibility for two teams that have combined to lose 21 of their last 26 outings.

Yet, interestingly, only one team enters the game feeling lower than a country singer with a scratch on his truck.

Only one team enters without a goalie or a win in any of its last seven outings.

An impressive win by the Calgary Flames over a fantastic Florida squad earlier this week did exactly what the Edmonton Oilers are hoping to do Saturday: flip the narrative on a terrible tailspin.

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The Oilers’ 6-0 loss Thursday to the Panthers demonstrated once again that goaltending is the most important position in the game.

Mikko Koskinen has been so bad for the Oilers, they have now lost 13 of their last 15 games.

Give ’em credit, a slide like that isn’t easy to piece together with the world’s two best players on your roster.

Eventually, as the fan who threw his jersey onto the ice at Rogers Place Thursday demonstrated, desperate measures are required.

Debate over what those might look like have been the focal point of all sports talk in Northern Alberta this week, as a fan base waits to see which sacrificial lamb is offered up by the GM: the goalie, the coach?

If Ken Holland doesn’t effect significant change before Saturday’s puck drop, surely a loss to the Flames would be the final straw.

Yet, despite all of Edmonton’s agony, a win Saturday puts the Pacific’s seventh-ranked team just two points behind the fifth-place Flames.

Both teams need this win.

“Well, Edmonton is one of the favourites to win the division,” said Darryl Sutter earlier this week, refusing to throw dirt on a reeling Oilers franchise he knows is capable of so much more.

“I think Edmonton is just as good a team as (Florida).”

While no one is taking Sutter at his word on this one, his point is that we all agreed a handful of months ago the Oilers, on paper, should be fighting for the top spot in the division, as opposed to fighting to save their season.

“Best two teams are Vegas and Edmonton,” said Sutter Thursday. “Next team coming is Vancouver, and then LA, because of their young guys.”

If there’s anybody that should be higher up it’s Vancouver because they have all the young talent.

“The way I looked at it in the summer, and I still look at it: Vegas and Edmonton are the teams that should be one and two.

“We’re all fighting for that third spot.”

Given how many games in hand both Alberta clubs have on the rest of the division, Sutter said it’s tough to gauge exactly where teams are at right now.

In Edmonton’s case, things are terrible, by any metric, begging the question: is this a good time to be facing the Oilers?

“Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question,” said Rasmus Andersson, contemplating the dangers of playing a team with endless confidence versus playing a group this desperate. “When you’re struggling you try to make your next game the best one in a long time. So, if they come off ten wins in a row or ten losses in a row it won’t matter.

“Sure, there are extra emotions because it’s the Oilers and the Battle of Alberta, but it doesn’t matter if a team is struggling or not.”

We beg to differ.

The importance of this one at such a crucial time in both teams’ psyches should make for an all-out war for two teams trying to build confidence, not to mention much-needed point totals.

“I don’t know if there is ever a good time or a bad time to be honest,” said Sutter of the matchup.

“At the end of the day, because we’re in Canada and it’s hockey, every time a team loses or wins three or four in a row it’s what’s great or what’s terrible.

“At this point in the season having five or six games difference in games played, you have to look more at performance than where you are at.”

Neither have performed well in 2022, save for the Flames’ lone win in their last five.

A big chunk of what lies ahead for both franchises could be revealed Saturday.

Like a car crash, who could possibly look away?

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