SUN Hockey Pool

Alberta rivals to ring in new year

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Robyn Regehr may not have Ales Hemsky to push around, but there will be plenty of fight in both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers when the NHL provincial and divisional rivals face off tonight.

"I think we will be very motivated," said Regehr, whose feud with the shifty Oilers winger goes back a few years. "Right now, we're trying to put some separation between us an the other teams in the Northwest Division. "They're looking at trying to climb back into the race. It'll be a tight game."

The fact it's on New Year's Eve will definitely add something to the atmosphere.

"New Year's game is a big game -- I think fans enjoy it," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "You see a few tuxedos in the stands. It's always a bit more festive, a little more electric in the building."

The Flames and Oilers were both on winning streaks heading into last night's action, which included the Ottawa Senators in Edmonton trying to put an end to their losing skid.

Hemsky, though, missed last night's game and is questionable for tonight, thanks to a hit from Jordin Tootoo over the weekend.

Knowing how rough Regehr gets with his favourite tackling dummy, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish would be wise to keep his star on the sidelines.

Hemsky doesn't shy away from the rough stuff. In fact, that's why Regehr has such a desire to punish the winger.

"One time after I hit him clean, I went to hit him again and he crosschecked me in the throat," said Regehr, of an incident three or four seasons ago. "It didn't make me very happy.

"Now when I see him out there, I especially try to play hard on him."

Embarrassing Regehr in a one-on-one situation did nothing to cool the rivalry.

"He's got me back, too. He scored on me a couple years ago in Edmonton -- caught me flat-footed and went around me, scored a nice goal. That doesn't make me happy, either," Regehr said with a grin.

For MacTavish, there's only one reason to bring the feud to the forefront every time these two teams meet.

Game-day scrums almost inevitably involve a sentence or two about Flames players taking liberties with his stars.

"That's coach-speak," said Flames bench boss Mike Keenan. "They're trying to alert the officials that Robyn's being too physical on his players. It worked last game for them. They had more powerplays than we did ... Hopefully, the officials don't buy into it this time."


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