Going gets tough for Oilers kids

Edmonton’s Taylor Hall gets dumped to the ice by T.J. Brodie of Calgary during second-period action...

Edmonton’s Taylor Hall gets dumped to the ice by T.J. Brodie of Calgary during second-period action at Rexall place in the Oilers’ 5-1 loss to the Flames on Friday.

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 AM ET

The fireworks displays are postponed until further notice.

You know those tougher games that everybody warned the rookies about when things came so easily in the first few games of the pre-season?

They’re here.

The time and space the newcomers enjoyed in the early going is gone.

Welcome to the NHL.

Almost.

This still isn’t as hard as it gets, but the Calgary Flames gave them a pretty good indication of what’s to come with a 5-1 spanking last night at Rexall Place.

It’s not like anyone in an Oilers sweater looked like he didn’t belong, but generating offence against a tight-checking rival seemed harder than a Japanese searchword puzzle.

“The tempo is just going to get better from here, that’s just the way it works,” said Jordan Eberle, on a night when the Big Three were a combined Minus Five. “It’s going to get tougher, we know that. We have to be better next time.”

These were pretty close to regular season rosters, with the Hall, Eberle and Shawn Horcoff on one line, Paajarvi, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky on another and five of Edmonton’s starting six defencemen in the game. Across the ice Calgary was operating at about 80 per cent of its NHL capacity, too.

In the end, the Flames were clearly better. They improved to 6-0 on two goals from Jarome Iginla and single from Nik Hagman, Jon Rheault and TJ Brodie, while Edmonton dropped to 5-1.

“It was definitely a lot faster game, a lot more suited to the regular season,” said Hall, who had one shot in 16:12 of ice time. “Definitely a frustrating night.”

At least Steve MacIntyre had his guy.

For all of the brilliant play-making and goal scoring that’s been on display this pre-season, the building was never louder than when MacIntyre and Raitis Ivanans squared off seven minutes into the first period for a long and intense battle that ended with MacIntyre winning a unanimous decision. He followed that up with a second period goal, deflecting Theo Peckham’s point shot, to come one assist away from the Gordie Howe hat-trick.

Never mind the beauties, say hello to the beast.

“Any time you can lace up the skates and you know it’s going to be that type of game, chippy, hard-nosed, guys talking trash, I love it,” said MacIntyre. “It gets everybody fired up. Everybody in the stands and on the bench gets fired up when they see that old-school hockey, tempers, fists flying, goals being scored. To me, that’s hockey.”

Cutting MacIntyre loose last year was one of Pat Quinn’s less popular decisions. Ask anybody on the room if they want him around and it’s unanimous — opponents treat the Oilers differently when they have a nuclear warhead in the lineup.

“He’s a sheriff out there,” said Liam Reddox. “He takes care of us all. Even if he’s not out there he’s yelling from the bench, letting guys know that there’s going to be some retribution. It’s definitely calming to have him around.”

And fun to see him score.

“Did you see him?” laughed Reddox. “It was like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. I loved it. Did you see his grin? It was ear to ear.”

MacIntyre scores about as often as Reddox, who got into it with Stefan Meyer, fights.

“First pro fight,” said Reddox. “I really didn’t have a choice. His gloves were off before I knew I was in one. I thought Battle of Alberta, why not?”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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