Considering it's a meeting between the Western Conference's 11th and 14th place teams, it may be overstating matters to describe Saturday's matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers as the Battle of Alberta. For now, call it the minor altercation of Alberta, which has a new oddball subtext, thanks to Calgary's recent Mike Cammalleri acquisition.
The Flames now have three University of Michigan alumni on the roster - Cammalleri, plus the injured Brendan Morrison and David Moss. The Oilers, meanwhile, feature three of their arch rivals, former Michigan State stars Shawn Horcoff, Corey Potter and Jeff Petry. Maybe if no one's paying attention locally, the TV numbers on Hockey Night In Canada can be bolstered by the overnights from the Windsor/Detroit area.
Still, rivalries - any kind of rivalries - always enhance match-ups and goodness knows, Calgary-Edmonton needs some enhancing these days, with the Oilers plunging fast, their top young players all injured, and all the early excitement of the season vanishing amid the hard reality of an 82-game schedule. In Calgary, there was some recent hope for improvement, as the Flames secured three of four hard-earned points on their California road trip before "returning to the cold weather," which is how Flames' coach Brent Sutter put it post-game Thursday following a 2-1 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
More good news: Injured left winger Alex Tanguay could be rejoining the Flames for the Oilers' game, after missing 14 games with what is believed to have been a concussion. Tanguay's return will partially offset the loss of Curtis Glencross, their most consistent goal-scorer, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Cammalleri's addition also mitigates Glencross's loss somewhat, but overall, they just aren't deep enough to overcome that many injuries. GM Jay Feaster went on an oddly timed rant about the reporting of injuries and the impact of injuries pre-game Thursday. Not sure if it was meant to distract attention from the team's recent play, or to take some pressure off a team that has edged to within two points of the eighth-placed Colorado Avalanche, with two games remaining before the all-star break.
For Thursday's date with the Kings, the Flames dressed eight forwards, who have scored three or fewer goals this season (Mikael Backlund, Roman Horak, Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, Blake Comeau, Matt Stajan, Blair Jones and Lance Bouma). Yikes, it doesn't exactly conjure up memories of Gretzky and Messier vs. Risebrough and McDonald, but according to the Michigan man, Cammalleri, that's what makes it fun.
"We're all in it together and trying to come to a common goal," said Cammalleri. "Hockey is the ultimate team game that way. You kinda submit yourself to a cause greater than you and that's what makes it rewarding."
Rewarding when you win, by however means necessary.