Where's the Metallica?

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Here's hoping the first of a dozen meetings in the 2005-06 edition of the Battle of Alberta gives the civility that's settled in at the Edmonton Oilers training camp a kick in the pants tonight. Chances are, it will.

Is it just me, or has camp, dating back to the start of rookie sessions, seemed less intense than in past years and a little, well, too polite?

Maybe it's a matter of veterans shaking off a year of inactivity. Maybe it's a case of players trying to absorb a revamped rule book.

Until now, there's been plenty of feel-good material, like the buzz around water coolers and coffee shops in the city about the return of the NHL after a season lost to the lockout. What fan backlash?

Of course, hope springs eternal with the off-season additions of marquee men Michael Peca and Chris Pronger. The retirements of future hall-of-famers Mark Messier, Al MacInnis and Ron Francis have punctuated the welcome back with a trip down memory lane. Fine. Swell. It's all good.

Out on the ice, barely a glove has hit the freeze in anger through rookie auditions and the first three days of main camp, save for a goal-crease jostle during Wednesday's Joey Moss Cup between Team White and Team Blue. "Oh, pardon me. You take the puck. No, you have it. I insist."

For the most part, The Mosser, played in front of 6,400 fans, and most camp scrimmages have been as intense as hand of Gin Rummy. I swear somebody was playing a Zamfir Pan Flute Classic CD in the dressing room the other day. Like, where's the Metallica?

PRECIOUS LITTLE FIRE

I'm guessing this Ice Capades bit will change when the Calgary Flames come calling tonight. While there's been precious little fire in the "friendlies" at camp, the Flames do not qualify as that.

Somebody run somebody, already.

"No one wants to go out there and crush their own guys," Steve Staios said of the laid-back pace so far. "At the same time, it's early in the season. You have to get back in the swing of things, show some intensity and emotion. "I'm hoping to do that in these upcoming games. Calgary always brings out the best in us and us in them."

Tonight marks the first of eight pre-season games for the Oilers, with four of those coming against the Flames. This is the first real look we get at Robbie Schremp, who has dangled in no-hitters, and J.F. Jacques, a banger who should excel against the Flaming C.

IN FRONT OF THE NET

Likewise, fans will get a glimpse of what all the fuss over Pronger is about when things get thick in front of the net. Where does scrappy Todd Harvey fit in? How busy will he keep Georges Laraque this season?

"From our standpoint, we have a pretty good handle on what each individual's skill-set is at this time and whether it's tweaked us enough to think that it's good enough to play in the NHL," coach Craig MacTavish said.

"Over the next number of pre-season games, we'll see who has the stomach for it, who has, not only the courage, but the confidence."

With 47 players in camp and a roster of 23 to decide on before the puck drops for real Oct. 5, the sooner the better. Starting now, MacTavish will begin assessing who fits where. Tonight, it'll be Team Blue against the Flames.

Sunday against Dallas, Team White gets its turn. Flame against Oiler, not teammate against teammate.

We'll see if Matt Greene is ready to win a spot on defence. Are Peca and Shawn Horcoff an adequate one-two punch at centre? And what about $7-million man Ryan Smyth and Ty Conklin?

"If you don't believe you can play at this level, that's quickly shown in these pre-season games," MacTavish said. "We'll see if they have the stomach for some of the pressure plays they're going to be under in the next couple of weeks."


Videos

Photos