Battle stations

Calgary Flames forward Alex Tanguay (left) and captain Jarome Iginla share a smile while at...

Calgary Flames forward Alex Tanguay (left) and captain Jarome Iginla share a smile while at practice Wednesday. (Calgary Sun/Jack Cusano)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

To Alex Tanguay, the Battle of Alberta is something he's only witnessed at arm's length.

Sure, the Calgary Flames left winger has caught the volatile games on TV and played a part in a pre-season version but he's never actually been part of the real thing.

Not until tonight's season-opener in Edmonton (8 p.m., CBC) -- and subsequent Flames home-opener Saturday at the Saddledome (8 p.m., CBC).

Still, Tanguay has an idea how heated the rivalry is having waded through his share of down-and-dirty clashes against Detroit while with the Colorado Avalanche and having grown up in Quebec City when the Nordiques and Montreal Canadiens did battle.

"I would imagine this is similar to Quebec and Montreal," said Tanguay, who collected four points in five pre-season games. "People in the city get overly excited. If you're a Montreal fan and they lose the game, the next day you won't talk to a Nordiques fan, and stuff like that."

Getting a back-to-back dose, too, helps. After all, if Tanguay doesn't have an intense hatred for the Oilers now, he's bound to have developed one by the end of the weekend.

"It's all for the best, I think. It makes for a great game. When the excitement gets like this, it's good for the players," he said. "Playing with Colorado eight times against Edmonton, against Minnesota, against Vancouver, there'll be lots of rivalries in the division.

"I'm quite ready for it."

Certainly, it makes for an interesting way to kick off the NHL campaign.

With the Flames, you have the reigning Northwest Division regular-season champions, looking to redeem themselves after an early post-season exit.

With the Oilers, you have the reigning Western Conference champions, looking to take one more step after reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

As if the opening of this new season -- between two teams eyeing a Stanley Cup run -- needed the intensity level torqued higher.

"It just escalates it even more," agreed Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. "That's our biggest rival and if you can beat your biggest rival on opening night, it's a chance to run with some momentum at the beginning of the year."

Which is one thing the Flames lacked in the early going last season.

Remember those humble beginnings? Called Stanley Cup contenders by all the media experts before the puck dropped, the Flames were a disaster in the early days, losing four of their first five and winning only four of 13 opening-month clashes.

Defenceman Andrew Ference believes the cause of that was trying to prove too much, too soon.

"We tried to win the Stanley Cup all at once and that's a good way to lose games," he said. "You'll never be able to completely eliminate having a rough patch in of your season but that was a tough way to get things going."

A huge key to victory in the double dip of the Battle of Alberta will be imposing your will on the opposition.

"We talked about it on the ice," said Flames head coach Jim Playfair. "The expectation is to go win the first shift of the first period of the first game and go from there."


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