SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers seek redemption

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

So, exactly how much money are the Calgary Flames going to put towards a new downtown arena in Edmonton?

After all, they’ve owned the Oilers a lot longer than Daryl Katz has.

“Six games against them last year and we didn’t beat them once,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert, on the eve of Edmonton’s much-anticipated re-launch. “That’s something we definitely want to redeem from last year.”

It’s been 18 months since the last time they beat the Flames, but six straight losses last year, and a pair of convincing defeats in this pre-season, are only the tip of Edmonton’s yellow snow iceberg.

It’s been nine years since the Flames had a losing record against Edmonton, a stretch of dominance that dates all the way back to the 2000-01 season.

“Our record against Calgary is something we obviously need to improve on and we think that we should, as long as we prepare the right way and don’t let negative things affect us,” said Sam Gagner, who doesn’t think Edmonton showed a lot of bounce back last year. “We want to be a resilient team. There are things that happen in games that you need to overcome and I don’t think last year we did a particularly good job of that.”

With a room full of fresh faces and high expectations, the last thing the Oilers need is to start the season with “same old, same old,” but here come the Flames.

“I want to win and I believe we can,” said head coach Tom Renney, who thinks this is as good a time as any to change their course. “It’s an opportunity for fans to get excited about their team for the first time. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance around a home opener, maybe it’s the best opponent we could ask for.”

While it’s been said that this year is as much about development as it is results, Renney isn’t interested in measuring sticks or easing their way into the season.

“I have high expectations for these guys and I don’t want to give them an out by suggesting that it’s all about the process,” he said. “We want to win. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort into becoming an Oiler, so our objective is to win and it starts Thursday.”

It didn’t start at all last year. The Oilers scored just 11 goals in six games with Calgary (less than two per game) and gave up 24.

It’s getting old. Fast.

“They’re a good team, an older team with a lot of experience,” said Ales Hemsky. “It’s always tough to play against them.”

It’s not like Calgary dominated everyone last year, they did finish 10th, after all, but they played Edmonton like a fiddle.

“I don’t know what it was with Calgary last year,” said Gilbert. “They’re a hard working team, they come at you for a full 60 minutes, and there some games where we didn’t show up like we should have and they took full advantage of that.”

Expectations are being tempered this year, and won’t change based on what happens in the first 60 minutes of the season, but it would be nice if something good happened early.

“We’re excited to have this new group of guys and to go out there and see what we can do,” said Gilbert. “It’ll be a nice test. This will be an exciting first game.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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