Battle bonanza opens Flames season

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

What better way to start a new NHL season than a home-and-home Battle of Alberta?

That's right, the Calgary Flames will jump head-first into the 2006-07 schedule, unveiled yesterday, with a pair of games against their biggest rival.

"That's good. That's great," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "It's a good way to start the year."

Calgary's first two games of the campaign will be banner events. When the provincial rivals open the season Oct. 5 in Edmonton, they'll witness the Oilers hoisting the Western Conference championship banner. In Calgary two nights later, the Flames will raise the Northwest Division crown to the Saddledome rafters.

Calgary's schedule has plenty of highlights.

The real thrill will be visits by the Southeast Division squads -- teams the Flames didn't face in 2005-06.

That means a first glimpse, finally, of Alexander Ovechkin, when the Calder Trophy winner, the second player in league history to post 50 goals and 100 points in his rookie season, and the Washington Capitals come to town Oct. 30.

It also means the long-awaited rematch of the 2004 Stanley Cup finalists when Tampa Bay comes calling; a visit by the reigning Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes; a chance to renew acquaintances with longtime nemesis Todd Bertuzzi as part of the Florida Panthers, and a visit by the Atlanta Thrashers, led by Ilya Kovalchuk.

However, there is some bad with the good.

For the first time in a decade, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs won't be coming to Calgary, nor will the rest of the Northeast Division, which also includes Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa.

The Flames, however, will meet those teams on the road.

Due to the unbalanced schedule, Calgary won't meet any teams from the Atlantic Division: The Rangers, Islanders, Penguins, Devils and Flyers.


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