Oilers-Flames Preview


The Calgary Flames are still getting adjusted to new coach Bob Hartley's style.

The Edmonton Oilers are off to a nice start under rookie coach Ralph Krueger.

Calgary will try to avoid opening with three straight home losses for the first time since 2000-01 on Saturday night when these provincial Northwest Division rivals open their season series.

Hired last May after the team missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons under coach Brent Sutter, Hartley is back in the NHL for the first time since getting fired six games into the 2007-08 season with the Atlanta Thrashers. Hartley led Colorado to the 2001 Stanley Cup title.

Flames left wing Alex Tanguay played on that club, and he feels it's just a matter of time before the team gets used to their fifth coach since the 2004-05 lockout.

"We just haven't been able to put a full game together, but we're starting to figure out the way Coach Hartley wants us to play,'' he said after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss at Vancouver. "We're starting to get more used to what we have to do out there, and I think that tonight in the latter part of the game was a good example of that.''

The Flames (0-2-1), one of two winless teams in the Western Conference along with defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles, need to play better at home. They fell 4-1 to San Jose on Sunday before losing 5-4 to visiting Anaheim a day later.

The last time Calgary opened without a win in its first four games was 1999-2000, when it started 0-3-0 with a tie, but the Oilers (2-1-0) are trying to reverse their own trend of slow starts.

They were 2-2-2 through six games last season and 2-4-2 in their first eight of 2010-11. The Oilers finished with the league's fewest points in two of the last three seasons, but Krueger is hoping a young roster full of former first-round picks will end a playoff drought that dates to 2005-06.

Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall each have a goal and two assists, as does rookie free agent defenseman Jordan Schultz, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has set up two scores. Last year's No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov leads Edmonton with two goals after netting the tying score with 4.7 seconds left in regulation on Thursday against Los Angeles. Gagner scored 3:01 into overtime to give the Oilers a 2-1 win.

"You have to love the compete in the group," said Krueger, Tom Renney's associate coach in Edmonton each of the last two seasons. " ... The persistence at the end of the game showed truly the character of this group. To finish it off in overtime was a very mature step in a very difficult situation emotionally.''

The Oilers have just three victories in 18 matchups against their Alberta rivals since the start of 2009-10, but they've won the last two, with Eberle recording a goal and two assists each time.

Edmonton's 6-1 victory on Feb. 21 ended a 10-game skid in Calgary and a nine-game losing streak in this series.

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who tied for the team lead with four assists and six points in six games against the Oilers last season, is still looking for his first goal.

The last time he didn't find the back of the net in the first four games was 2003-04.

Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and Lee Stempniak each have two goals to lead the Flames.