The bitter 42-year rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames could explode again on Saturday at Rogers Place.
The two sides head into the 254th regular season Battle of Alberta desperate to keep pace with the leading teams in the Pacific Division.
Edmonton’s season is in severe danger of imploding after going 0-4-2 in their last six games and picking up just two victories in their last 14 outings.
That dismal run of form has left them 10 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, although they still have five games in hand.
By contrast, the Flames have also played five games fewer than the Knights but have only a six point deficit to make up on the leaders.
They were very impressive in their most recent outing, defeating Florida Panthers 5-1 to open up a four-point gap between themselves and the Oilers.
Sean Monahan weighed in with a couple of goals as the Flames boosted their hopes of qualifying for the end of season play-offs.
On that basis, Saturday’s game between the two sides could be pivotal to their respective hopes of staying in contention in the Pacific Division.
Read on as we take a look at the heated rivalry between the two Canadian teams, and assess who is likely to come out on top this weekend.
Introducing the Battle of Alberta
A recent study by Betway described the Battle of Alberta as a ‘fierce rivalry’ and it is impossible to argue with that sentiment.
The bitterness has its roots in the 1980s, when the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary only to find themselves facing one of the NHL’s iconic dynasties.
The Oilers famously won five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990, giving the team and their fans plenty to crow about in Alberta.
The Flames also managed to win the NHL championship in 1988/89, to cement an epic period of dominance for Canadian teams.
While neither side has managed to lift the prestigious trophy since then, the conflict between the pair has bubbled along in the background.
However, an nasty incident during a game two years ago lifted the intensity in the Battle of Alberta to a completely different level.
Matthew Tkachuk vs Zack Kassian
An ongoing feud between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian reignited the Battle of Alberta rivalry, bringing a tasty personal element into proceedings.
Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty had previously described Tkachuk as a ‘dirty kid’ and his run-in with Kassian appeared to back up his assessment.
On January 11, 2023, Tkachuk hit Kassian with two brutal bodychecks that the Oilers forward claimed were ‘predatory’ in nature.
The second hit knocked off Kassian’s helmet, and he responded by viciously attacking Tkachuk. Kassian was given a double minor penalty and Calgary scored the winner on the ensuing powerplay.
The NHL Department of Player Safety surprisingly ruled both of Tkachuk’s hits legal after the game, while Kassian was banned for two matches.
The stage was now set for the Battle of Alberta to blow up again and the two teams had plenty of opportunities to settle old scores over the following months.
Oilers gain the upper hand
The two teams frequently renewed acquaintances after the incident, facing each other 12 times in the NHL up to the end of last season.
The Oilers defeated the Flames on seven occasions, flipping previous form in regular season meetings with the Flames on its head.
Since the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980, there have been 253 regular season meetings between the two Alberta franchises.
Calgary has won 126 times to Edmonton’s 109, with 18 games drawn prior to the introduction of the NHL’s current overtime rules.
The Flames also hold the upper hand in the goalscoring stakes, bagging 862 goals in rivalry games against Edmonton while conceding 824 times.
However, having gained the upper hand over the Flames in recent times, Edmonton hammered that message home in their most recent meeting with Calgary.
McDavid makes his mark
Connor McDavid highlighted why many people rate him as the best current player in the NHL with a stellar performance against the Flames last October.
McDavid scored three goals for his 11th career hat-trick as the Oilers beat the Flames 5-2 in front of a packed house at Rogers Place.
The treble took McDavid’s tally to 26 goals in 31 career games against the Flames, highlighting his importance in every Battle of Alberta match-up.
Despite the Oilers’ recent struggles McDavid continues to impressive, having netted 19 goals and 34 assists in 34 appearances this term.
He is currently on course to top the 100-point barrier in the NHL for the fifth time in six seasons and could beat the 116 points he bagged during the 2018/19 campaign.
While his personal achievements are hugely impressive, McDavid will be desperate to his points tally translate into team success for the Oilers.
Oilers fancied to spark resurgence
The Oilers have an opportunity to get their season back on track on Thursday when they welcome the high-flying Florida Panthers to Edmonton.
The Panthers are going well in the Atlantic Division, although a disappointing 5-1 defeat in their most recent outing against the Flames demonstrates they are not infallible.
A victory over the Panthers would move the Oilers to within two points of the Flames, setting up what promises to be an epic clash on Saturday.
If the Oilers are to snap their five-game losing streak they will undoubtedly need McDavid to lead from the front over the next couple of games.
The 25-year-old has grabbed just one assist in 2023 after bagging five goals and 11 assists in 11 NHL appearances during December.
With the Oilers desperately needing to turn their fortunes around, they can ill-afford to slip up against their big rivals on Saturday.
Prediction: Edmonton Oilers 4-2 Calgary Flames.