Calgary Flames 2 Edmonton Oilers  1

Rookie Leads Flames Past Oilers

D'Arcy McGrath

September 29, 2001

The preseason is a time to pare down a team's roster, get used to new teammates, and, with any luck, put a system in place that can be affective in the regular season.

One of the principal aims for the Flames in getting ready for the season to start on Wednesday is to cut down their goals against average.

Defence will have to be the Flames bread and butter this season if they have any chance of landing back in the playoffs for the first time in six years. 

For the second time in two games the Calgary Flames managed to only allow one goal in defeating the Edmonton Oilers by a score of two to one at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday night.

The first period was scoreless with the Flames directing only three shots toward Oiler netminder Tommy Salo.

Craig Conroy opened the scoring on a second period powerplay, with the assists going to Dean McAmmond and Igor Kravchuk.

The Oilers tied the affair when Shawn Horcoff beat Mike Vernon with his second of the preseason. Vernon had no chance on the goal.

In the third period preseason phenom Chuck Kobasew netted the game winner, also on a powerplay.

In doing so the Flames managed varying degrees of success in their aforementioned "to do" list in preseason tasks.

Getting Used to Teammates - Flames lines are starting to gel, defence pairings are starting to form, and Mike Vernon showed he can still get the job done, and provide quality goaltending for a team that needs in night in and night out. 

Learning the System - The one goal against would suggest that once again the Flames managed to put defence first on their priority list and in doing so limit the opposition to few quality chances.

Through the preseason the Flames have managed a 3-2-1 record with one game remaining in Edmonton this evening. The Flames are guaranteed at least a .500 record in the preseason for the third straight season.

Can they take that game to the "real" season however?

One good signal is the type of game they are playing. Often in the preseason the noticeable lack of veterans in the lineup leads to higher scoring games. There are more mistakes and with them more goals, leading to a false sense of security for teams that are sure to struggle in the regular season.

This fall the Flames have come to camp and gone straight into the game plan. Through six games the Flames have averaged exactly 2.00 goals against, on an average of only 21 shots a night. Both good signs for a team that will need to rely on defence to win.

Paring down the Roster - Settling the roster could be the sticking point for coach Greg Gilbert as players like Chuck Kobasew refuse to go quietly into the night. 

Depending on injuries there are still anywhere from four to six more cuts that will need to be made, and nobody is going down without a fight.

It will be interesting to see if the Flames think long term and assign Kobasew to Kelowna or go strictly with the merit system that would see the youngster make the team.

OUR STARS

1. Vernon - Veternan goaltender bounces back after a rough start in Minnesota with some solid goaltending.

2. Kobasew Only one goal on the night, but the game winner from the 19 year old trying to make the jump from college to NHL hockey.

3. Salo The Oilers new marquee player with Doug Weight toiling in St. Louis, solid on the night. 


HIT OF THE GAME

Who else? Denis Gauthier fells Finnish rookie Jani Rita with a classic hip check. Gauthier returning from an injury to his wrist was in fine form throwing his weight around all night.


NOTES

One of the most important factors for the Flames to be successful this season is their special teams.  Last year the Flames were less than special on both the powerplay and the penalty kill, but essentially effective five on five. Their powerplay finished 20th with a rate of 14.9%, while their penalty kill finished 28th with a lowly 79.9% rate. This fall? Though it's only preseason the Flames have a 23.7% powerplay rate which would have been good for 1st overall in the NHL last season. Their penalty killing record is also better by a wide margin coming in at 90.3%, a rate that also would have been first in the NHL last season ... Jamie Allison's arrival in Calgary brings full circle the trade between the two teams on October 28th, 1998. Allison is back in Calgary, Steve Dubinsky is back in Chicago, leaving only Jeff Shantz as a tangible asset remaining on either side after the dust settled. Marty McInnis and Erik Anderson were also in that deal, but neither toil with the Hawks. ... The replacement of Allison for Housley gives the Flames a more logical succession plan for next season. With Housley and Igor Kravchuk both expected be on their way at season's end it was difficult to envision who would fill in the sixth spot in their absence. Now the Flames top six is likely set for the next couple of years at least, with college star Jordan Leopold on the horizon.


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