Playoff encounter?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Oilers-Flames. Seven games.

It could happen.

And if it does - if the provincial rivals should meet again in the playoffs for the first time since their epic Smythe Division showdown in 1991 - it's going to be a beauty.

If last night's thriller between Edmonton and Calgary is any indication, they'd need edge-of-your-seatbelts at Rexall Place and additional fire extinguishers at the Saddledome.

"How great would that be," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff, a few minutes after his overtime winner secured a dramatic 3-2 decision. "That's a long ways away, but these games are definitely exciting. There's teams behind us that are chasing us, so there's no guarantees (they'll even make it in), but there hasn't been a lot of talk that we're in a divisional hunt, too.

EXCITING

"It's exciting. You can't help but love this time of year if you're a fan or a player."

Ryan Smyth laced up for a lot of Battles of Alberta that pitted the ninth place Oilers against the 10th place Flames.

He says it's a heck of a lot more fun to play them when it matters.

Really matters.

"And it's a lot more fun when you win," he said.

"This series has a lot of great memories, but with what's going on with these two teams lately... this is huge. These points are so meaningful."

Even the losers had to appreciate what happened here last night, and what could very well happen in the first round. End to end rushes, lead changes, drama, overtime, intensity.

And, most of all, the stakes. There isn't a conference final up for grabs yet, but it's a start. And it beats 15 years of the alternative.

"It's good hockey," said defenceman Andrew Ference. "It's not just Battle of Alberta anymore. It's a battle for the playoffs, battle for the division, battle for position.

"Everything is just magnified a little more with so much on the line."

They don't have to hype the series anymore, it hypes itself.

"It's not just because we're close in proximity," said Ference. "For the first time in a long time we're both battling for the playoffs in a tough division and a tough conference. When two teams, whether they're just down the highway from each other or not, are both fighting for the same spot it's going to be good, intense hockey. You should expect nothing less."

The Flames were hoping to put some distance between themselves and the Oilers - a win could have padded their cushion to seven points - and left Edmonton kicking themselves over the missed opportunity.

HUGE GAME

"Huge game," said Chuck Kobasew. "Two points could have made that gap a little bigger, but now they're right there with us. It's going to be a battle every game."

The province wouldn't want it any other way.

"Everybody in Alberta should be happy," said Flames coach Darryl Sutter, who has 400 wins under his belt, 98 as Flames coach.

"Because they got three points out of this game."

Is Alberta ready for an Oilers-Flames playoff series?

"It would be very interesting," grinned Smyth.


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