CALGARY -- The Edmonton Oilers can sink the San Jose Sharks and tame the Minnesota Wild all they want.
They're significant games considering the opponents are division and conference rivals.
But they're not the games that matter most to the majority of fans and most likely the same number of players as well.
It's the Oilers and Calgary Flames -- not just big games, but huge.
The third edition of this year's Battle of Alberta goes tonight -- the third meeting in a row at the Saddledome -- and the Flames have so much of an edge going in that the battle is looking more than a little one-sided.
With their two wins this season (3-0 on Oct. 15 and 3-1 on Oct. 20), Calgary is now 9-1-1-1 against the Oilers with Darryl Sutter at the helm. The Oilers haven't beaten the Flames since Nov. 15, 2003 and they needed overtime to do it. They haven't won in Calgary since March 11, 2003.
FOUND AN ANSWER
"If we get through these three games (in Calgary) at 1-2 then there's a pretty good likelihood we can do the same in our own building," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"But 0-3 coming back puts the pressure on us to run the table in our own building. It's not an impossible task but it's a tough task and we'd like to have that win under our belts."
Perhaps the Oilers have found an answer in the form of Mike Morrison. Just how big would it be for this guy, who's spent the bulk of his pro career toiling in the ECHL, to win his fourth straight NHL start against the rival that has owned his team for so long?
"It would be pretty sweet playing a team like that in this rink, but we'll see what happens," said Morrison, who has a little history against the Flames.
The Oil stopper stoned the Sharks with 21 saves and turned aside 22 against the Wild. Most importantly, he has yet to let one bad goal beat him, which goes hand in hand with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
Morrison beat Calgary twice in the pre-season (a shutout and a shootout victory), but those lineups didn't include Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow or Tony Amonte. He did, however, go up against Chuck Kobasew, Steve Reinprecht and Jordan Leopold in their college days and even faced Amonte as a 10-year-old when he was invited to a kids' clinic at Boston University featuring some big-name pros.
"I'm not trying to set any records here or win a bunch of games. I'm just trying to get out there and play," said Morrison, who has clearly exceeded a lot of expectations in the Oiler camp.
"My confidence is just the same. It's great to have the team winning and to keep rolling. Hopefully I get another chance but I'm just having fun. These guys are having fun and that's it."
Morrison has pocketed three of the Oil's last six wins and given them a lift when there was suddenly concern in the goaltending department. MacTavish rolled with Jussi Markkanen through a previous stretch but when he faltered Morrison was there to pick the team up.
'RIDE THE WAVE'
"We'll see where that carries us," said MacTavish.
"With goaltending, you want to ride the wave and ride the momentum. We did that with Jussi and now we'll see how far Mike can go. I know Jussi's ready and anxious to play and we'll get him a game when we see where Mike takes us."
The Flames refuse to slough this game off.
It's just as big a deal to them as it is to the Oilers as they hope to go 10-1 in their last 11 on home ice.
They would also hit 10 wins for the month of November and improve to 9-2 against their foes in the Northwest Division.
"We have to look at it as a game we need to win," said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr. "It's a game against a team that's right behind us in the standings. It's an extremely important game for both teams."
LATE HITS: Oilers goalie Ty Conklin and his wife, Erica, had a baby girl Wednesday night, a seven-pound, five-ounce bundle of joy named Maggie Lee.