Oilers turn into Spoilers

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

DENVER -- The subject is taboo.

Suddenly, though, the memories become more relevant than hoped any of the Calgary Flames who were part of the Oilers Spoilers crew.

See, the Oilers were a game away from clinching a playoff berth while the Flames were already out of luck when the two clashed in Edmonton April 12, 2002.

Now the provincial rivals to the north have a chance to return the favour five years later.

Surely it was a situation the Flames wanted to avoid but back-to-back losses against the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks leaves tonight's contest at the Saddledome (8 p.m., CBC) as their best opportunity to finally cement a spot in the playoffs.

Asked before a 4-3 loss to the Sharks Thursday if he would recall the memories of that Friday night in 2002, the night he collected his 52nd goal of the season in an empty net to seal the Oilers' fate, Jarome Iginla politely declined. He even made a point of apologizing later.

"Very good memories," said the current Flames captain. "But I don't want to talk about it."

Craig Conroy was part of that team, too, and seconded his pal's notion.

"It's like superstition," he said.

Asked about it again yesterday, Conroy remained spooked.

"That's bad luck to talk about," he said. "No negatives, only positives."

After the loss in Silicon Valley, Kristian Huselius was well aware the next opponent was a big one despite the Oilers' injury-riddled roster and lengthy string of suffering since the trade deadline.

Huselius wasn't part of the Flames team that upset Edmonton on a night the Oilers had to stick around to give their fans the jerseys off their backs but the Swede has a keen sense of the rivalry that fuels the Battle of Alberta.

"I think Edmonton's going to do whatever they can to win. They probably want to destroy our playoff hopes," Huselius said. "We're going to make sure we're ready to go (today), for sure.

"It's going to be the biggest game of the year and we're all going to look forward to it."

They have to know the Oilers, especially the handful who remain from that 2002 team, are looking forward to it with a hunger equal or greater than that of the Flames.

Tonight will tell the tale but if it ends with an unlikely Oilers win, the story will mirror the one from five years ago. One reason Iginla may be reluctant to talk about ruining Edmonton's playoff chances is because things he said then could come come back to haunt him.

"They've been a big part of why we haven't been in the playoffs the past few years," Iginla said after the big '02 win. "So it feels good to be able to get a little payback."

No doubt the Oilers are looking for a little payback of their own tonight.

Even if it seems like ancient history.


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