EDMONTON, Alberta -- Only a three-hour drive separates the two cities, but Calgary and Edmonton are both on the roads to redemption.
Just past the halfway point of the NHL season, and the two teams are both in playoff spots. The Flames missed the postseason in 2015-16. The Oilers haven't been to the playoffs in a decade. Just three points separate the two teams in the standings.
It sets the stage for what should be a fiery chapter in the Battle of Alberta Saturday night at Rogers Place.
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"It's basically playoff time for us right now," said Oilers center/right winger Leon Draisaitl. "We need every single point. Every team is battling for a playoff spot right now and we are in the hunt."
The Oilers should be recharged from Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over New Jersey. The team didn't practice Friday, giving the players a full day off.
But, despite coming off the win, there are issues for the Oilers. The biggest is that that three of their four lines aren't scoring. Pretty well all of the offensive threat comes from the top unit of Connor McDavid, Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon. Maroon has the team lead with 17 goals; Draisaitl has 16. McDavid leads the NHL with 50 points.
That troika is carrying an Oilers team that is slumping in other areas.
Jordan Eberle hasn't scored since Dec. 6; that's quite a dry spell for a guy who scored 25 times last season. Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has just 20 points this season. And Milan Lucic, brought over as a marquee offseason free-agent signing, has no goals and only three points over the course of the last nine games.
But Eberle, at least, has shown some signs of coming out his funk. He rung a shot off the iron in Thursday's 3-2 win over New Jersey, and his play has been on an upward curve.
"I think it's coming for Jordan -- breakaway, crossbar, post, whatever it was," said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. "He had that in Ottawa (in Sunday's loss to the Sens), so if he gets one, will the rest come? We certainly hope so."
The Oilers and Flames have already faced each other twice this year -- with both of those encounters coming in the opening week of the campaign. The Oilers triumphed in both games, and outscored the Flames 12-7 over the two encounters.
While the Oilers beat the Devils Thursday, the Flames lost 2-1 to the Devils Friday night. The Flames will need to bounce back in order to remain close to the Oilers in the standings.
"Every game is a big game," said Flames center Matt Stajan, who is expected to play his 900th career NHL game Saturday. "Tonight stings, but we got what we deserved, so we move forward. It'll be a fun one tomorrow night. I know a lot of people have been looking forward to it, but it's a big two points. They're a team right ahead of us and we've got to try and get the two points we lost tonight and make sure we put in a lot better of an effort than we did."
"The game against Edmonton coming up is going to be a fun game and a huge game for both teams," said Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. "We've got to take care of business, get as many points, close that gap again. They got two points again last night and moved a little further ahead of us."
"Once we watch a little video on tonight, I think we'll see what mistakes we made and the turnovers that hurt us," said Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland. "Going into Edmonton, they thrive off turnovers -- their speed and their skill guys -- so we've got to make sure we get pucks deep"
The Flames got veteran right winger Troy Brouwer back into the lineup for Friday's loss to the Devils. He had been out since Dec. 23 with a broken finger.