SUN Hockey Pool

Kids face trial by Flames

Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall is upended by Vancouver Canucks' Keith Ballard.   (REUTERS/Dan...

Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall is upended by Vancouver Canucks' Keith Ballard. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 PM ET

Tennis great Jimmy Connors once said that every time he played a kid for the first time he did everything he could to crush him.

No taking it easy, no giving the rookie a break.

He brought out his best and tried to destroy him so that if the kid got ever got better and they met again, he’d always have that fear and doubt in the back of his mind, always associate Connors with humiliation and defeat.

We’ll see if the Calgary Flames are tennis fans.

The Cattlemen get their first look at Edmonton’s big three on Friday, when Jordan Eberle, Tayor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi are all expected to dress for the battle of pre-season undefeateds.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Hall said of the 4-0 Oilers tangling with the 5-0 Flames. “Calgary is a place where I grew up for 13 years. I grew up watching guys like Iginla, so it’s going to be cool facing off against them.”

Cool. And hard. None of the rookies should expect a warm reception when the Flames get here. They, like Connors, will probably want to make it known early on that a game against them is hard labour.

“I expect everybody to get a hard ride, to be honest with you,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “This is training camp, people are trying to vie for jobs. They’re our biggest rival, so I would expect, no matter who’s carrying the puck, they better have their head up.”

Of course, trying to knock these kids off their game physically isn’t exactly breakthrough technology. Opponents have been trying to do it since they were about 10 and Hall doesn’t expect them to stop now.

“Definitely it’ll be tough,” said the first pick overall. “Their defence is pretty well known as a tough, rugged defence, and you’ve got Bouwmeester, who’s offensive. Those guys are tough to play against and not only that, it’s a bitter rivalry,

“They probably want to set the tone for the season and try to win the game. That’s good. You want to have tough games going into the season to prepare yourself for the rigours of the NHL, especially me, a young guy coming in.”

They won’t be walking alone, though, as Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini, Jim Vandermeer and Theo Peckham are also expected to draw in for the Oilers.

“Those are the fun ones,” said Peckham. “The crowd gets into it and anytime Edmonton plays Calgary it’s a pretty good game.”

Renney expects to learn a lot about everyone in the home and home series with the Flames, the last two tilts before the final cuts.

“We’re looking forward to these games,” he said. “We seem to bring out the best, and sometimes the worst, in each other.

“We have to make some decisions here and they’ll certainly put the heat on us to play well and respond in a number of different ways.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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