SUN Hockey Pool

Young Flames get first look at rivals

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:02 AM ET

PENTICTON, B.C. - Hate is such a strong word.

Certainly too strong for Sven Baertschi to use to describe his feelings toward the Edmonton Oilers.

“I don’t hate anybody and don’t hate any team, but I want to win,” said the Calgary Flames 2011 NHL Entry Draft’s first-round choice. “Winning is what matters. In the business of hockey, you want to win every game.

“I don’t care who’s on the other side — I just want win every game.”

Whether Baertschi is in the lineup remains to be seen, but Wednesday is his first chance to be part of the Battle of Alberta when the Flames and the Oilers square off at the Young Stars Prospects Tournament in Penticton, B.C.

“That’s something special,” Baertschi said. “The coaches said they don’t want to lose, especially against those guys — Edmonton, Vancouver, the Canadian teams … I felt that right away. There’s a big rivalry against Edmonton.

“I’m not sure if I’m playing, but if I am, I’ll be going hard.”

For the second straight year, the Oilers arrived for this event boasting the first overall draft choice from the most recent draft.

A year ago, it was Taylor Hall.

This season, it’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Hall didn’t play the game against the Flames last season, and seeing as Nugent-Hopkins suited up for the first two Oilers tilts at this event, it’s likely he won’t skate against the Flames.

But there are Flames players who’d like to go up against the Red Deer Rebels star, especially WHL junior teammate Turner Elson.

“I always watched the Battle of Alberta, so it would be exciting if I could play against the Oilers,” said Elson, who hails from St. Albert. “I want to play (Nugent-Hopkins) because I’m hoping I can get in his grill. I know how to get under his skin.”

Knowledge of how to rattle Nugent-Hopkins could be valuable information to the Flames, seeing as how the highly touted centre could be a cornerstone player for their rivals for years.

However, Elson knows he’s treading dangerous ground, since they could both end up back with the Rebels again this season.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt him because I’d be out of Red Deer real quick,” Elson said. “I’ll try to do what I do best, and that’s get under the skin of first-liners. I know I’m a pest — that’s what I have to do. I’ll probably pass information on to the Flames guys. It’s a little bit easy to get under (Nugent-Hopkins’) skin.”

It’s possible neither team’s first-rounder will take to the ice Wednesday. If they do, it could make for interesting viewing. Baertschi and Nugent-Hopkins met once last season in a regular-season clash which saw Baertschi and the Portland Winterhawks win 4-3 in overtime. Baertschi scored the game-tying goal late in the third period.

“The first-overall pick — that’s special,” Baertschi said. “He’s a really good player. If I go on the ice and see Hopkins out there, I don’t really care. It’s the team that matters. We want to beat them, not just Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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