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21 April 2024

Oilers seek direction as they take on Flames

By Reuters

History repeats itself. That lesson is in black and white numbers for the Edmonton Oilers as they prepare to visit the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

The Oilers return from the holiday break with an 18-15-2 record, the exact same mark they sported through 35 games last season. Edmonton is in a similar spot, sitting outside a playoff position.

The good news for the Oilers is that they can remind themselves how last season they posted a 10-3-1 mark in their next 14 games, finished second in the Pacific Division and reached the conference final in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Last year we got off to a racing start, then fell off a cliff halfway through, and that's kind of how we ended up here," Edmonton captain Connor McDavid said. "And I would say this time around we've just kind of gone up and down and it's been a bit of a rollercoaster."

The Oilers have one win in their last five games (1-2-2) and return to action following a disappointing 5-2 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. Edmonton surrendered five unanswered goals while blowing a 2-0 lead.

Although the Oilers are struggling to find their form, McDavid is not one of their problems. He leads the league in goals (30) and points (66).

Facing the Flames should also give him some extra juice, too. McDavid has amassed 28 goals and 51 points in 36 regular-season games against Calgary.

"It doesn't matter who we play. It's a big game no matter who we're playing," McDavid said. "Obviously Calgary, we know the history there, so it's a big game for us. That's the bottom line."

The Flames are back on home ice after finishing a four-game road trip with a 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. Calgary posted a 3-0-1 mark during clashes in California, and moved one point ahead of the Oilers and into a wild-card position -- which was the goal prior to the road swing.

"Huge," said defenseman Rasmus Andersson, who scored the game-winning goal in Anaheim. "We talked about it. Have a good road trip, which we did. To come out with three out of four and seven of eight points, it's a good trip. Now we build and we keep going."

Like the Oilers in their last game, the Flames wasted a lead. In fact, the Flames twice saw a one-goal edge disappear. However, they can take solace in bouncing back and earning a victory.

"We stuck with it throughout the games, whether we had good bounces or bad bounces," forward Brett Ritchie said. "I think that's what was missing early on in the year, that ability to stick with it. You're never out of it until it's over."

The Anaheim game ended a stretch for the Flames in which they played nine games in 15 days, three of them in the Eastern time zone, two in the Mountain time zone and four on the West Coast. Detractors could say his team needed overtime to beat the cellar-dwelling Ducks, but Flames coach Darryl Sutter believed his squad gritted out a victory.

"This has been a grind for our team," Sutter said. "They need a break and (Friday) was just about digging down there a little bit, that's pretty clear."