Edmonton Oilers find focus ahead of rematch with feisty Flames
It may be the Christmas season, but there isn’t likely to be peace on Earth when the Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames Sunday night at Rogers Place.
When the two teams squared off in Calgary on Nov. 17, it looked like an old-fashioned Battle of Alberta. There was maybe too much battle from Oilers forward Zack Kassian, who racked up a whopping 26 penalty minutes.
“Last game, I kind of took myself right out of the game. That can’t happen. I can be effective. Those are games I enjoy playing in,” said Kassian.
The chief nemesis for the Oilers that night was Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, who stirred the pot with physical and agitating play against Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“We have some players on our team that we feel shouldn’t be attacked,” said Kassian. “I’m all for when you play guys hard and play the right way, but there’s no reason for cheap shots or things like that. If that stuff’s going to happen, we’re going to have to take it into our own hands if the ref’s not going to do that.”
Ken Hitchcock wasn’t coaching the Oilers when they lost that November game 4-2. He knows about the bad blood but hopes it doesn’t become the main storyline.
“I just think if you want to win, you’re going to have to plow through the distractions. If the distractions lead to frustration or they lead to lack of focus, they don’t do any good,” said Hitchcock.
The Flames lead the Pacific Division with a record of 18-9-2 going into their game Saturday against Nashville. The Oilers have won five of their last six and are 15-12-2.
“I think Calgary is probably one of the best transition teams in the National Hockey League right now,” added Hitchcock. “If there’s emotion and there’s an extra level of intensity and it feels like a playoff game, then where our team’s at right now, that’s going to make us nothing but better.”
The Flames will be without defenceman Mark Giordano on Sunday, who will be serving the second of a two-game suspension. Centre Mikael Backlund is out as he goes through concussion protocol.
The Oilers and Flames are on 630 CHED Sunday night with the Faceoff Show at 5:30 p.m. The game starts at 7 p.m.
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