SUN Hockey Pool

McGrattan prepared to fight

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Brian McGrattan has been around the block a few times.

He knows the Edmonton Oilers may have Flames captain Jarome Iginla in their cross-hairs when they meet tonight. In case anybody's forgot, last time they met, Iginla drilled Sheldon Souray into the boards, which caused a concussion that has the Oilers defenceman still on the shelf.

McGrattan also knows the role he plays if things become a little heated at the Saddledome.

"I have to be out there to protect our high-end players and skill guys. If anybody wants to take a run at him, that's why I'm here," McGrattan said with a smile.

Could the nasty side of the Battle of Alberta return? Probably not to the degree of the 1980s, when there were bench brawls.

But McGrattan was in his share of Ottawa Senators-Toronto Maple Leafs meetings to look forward to rivalry matches which can provide extra oomph.

In this case, it could mean dropping the mitts with Oilers enforcer Steve MacIntyre.

"It's the best. The best type of fun, buddy," said McGrattan of an emotionally charged Battle of Alberta. "I look forward to every game. If he wants to fight, I'm ready."

A couple of weeks ago, Iginla was chasing Souray for a puck in the corner when he inadvertently tripped Souray. That sent them both crashing into the boards.

The Oilers defenceman left the game due to a concussion and has been sidelined ever since.

Iginla, who received a minor for tripping, later fought Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.

Oilers head coach Pat Quinn spoke out post-game, talking about vigilante justice for the hit by Iginla, and was fined $10,000 for his rant.

Yesterday, Quinn said, "All has been said. We're interested in going in there and winning a hockey game. That's what were focusing on. That stuff (quotes that got me fined) was taken so out of whack and so misconstrued ... there was never any intention for any of that sort of thing to go on."

Iginla doesn't believe the Oilers will go after him.

"I know he's been out a while, and I feel bad about that and would like to see him get back, feeling good and over it," Iginla said. "But as far as retribution, I didn't mean it, and I think it was a freak thing. I made a mistake as far as going and my stick being there, but it was not (what I) meant. They always play hard, anyway, against me and the team. It should be that way, and I don't expect it to be any different (tonight)."

Flames head coach Brent Sutter echoed the sentiment.

"I'm not worried about that," Sutter said. "We've got lots of guys who can look after themselves. It's two teams that compete and play hard, and we shouldn't expect anything less than a highly competitive game. What it evolves into is what it evolves into."

Besides, tonight's game is too important for crazy shenanigans, even if it's still early in the season.

Both teams are off to strong starts. In fact, they have identical records -- 6-2-1 -- and are riding high.

The Flames have the upperhand by taking the first two games -- one in a shootout, and the other with a final-minute tally.

Being big rivals, too, adds a bit of flare.

"Oh, that's always there," Iginla said. "The beginning of the year, the first two games, they were close. We don't expect this to be any different. We know it's going to be physical and there will be bragging rights. We'll be ready and know it's going to be a fun one to play."

Added Sutter: "They are playing better, and, to a degree, we're playing better, too. It's a divisional game and a rivalry, so you've got to expect a lot of emotion in the game. If there's not, there's something wrong."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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