Battle of Alberta enemies go way back

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Michael Cammalleri's march to a career season isn't catching many people off guard.

Most people expected the talented Cammalleri would have a break-out year with the Flames.

Maybe the person least surprised, however, is an old friend who was skating for the Oilers when the Flames faced Edmonton last night.

Andrew Cogliano has known Cammalleri his whole life and spent the off-season training with the Flames forward.

"He's done very well for himself, but it was expected," Cogliano said after yesterday's morning skate. "I worked out with him in the summer, and I know how big of a season he wanted and how hard he worked in the summer to make it happen.

"He made a lot of changes in his lifestyle -- how he ate and his nutrition -- and it's paying off."

The ties between the pair actually go back to before was born. Their families were next-door neighbours.

Cammalleri's family moved away around the time the Oilers centre came into the world, but the families kept in contact over the years.

And when Cogliano was considering NCAA scholarship opportunities, he turned to the now-Flames winger, who is five years older, for advice. He ended up going to the University of Michigan a few years after Cammalleri left.

"The first time I saw Michigan was to see him play there, and that's how I was introduced to the school," Cogliano said. "He told me he liked it there, enjoyed himself. I kinda took the same path, two years in junior A. He told me everything about the school and that it was a good idea to go there, and my parents were keen on me going to school."

The similarities don't end there.

The pair are close in size and both possess excellent skill, although Cammalleri is more of a shooter and Cogliano's forte is passing the puck. They have a fun time creating plays together in the summer.

"He's helped my shot a lot, given me some pointers," Cogliano recalled. "In the summer, we'll rent ice and get a lot of pucks for shooting and stickhandling."

With the Oilers in the thick of what's become a tight playoff battle, Cogliano could use some of that goal-scoring advice to pay off.

Edmonton was one point up on Anaheim for eighth spot in the West prior to last night's action. Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner all had strong seasons last year, but haven't quite rekindled the same offensive output.

"Last year, we were all playing together and weren't thinking about it too much, just playing and things were happening for us really fast," Cogliano said. "Now, there's more of a mental game. You have to think about things, worry about stuff off the ice and how your prepare.

"Last year, we were just playing and pucks were going in the back of the net. It's been a little tougher this year. I think we've all struggled at times, but hopefully we'll all find our gear and help the team."


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