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NHL: Edmonton Oilers @ Calgary Flames preview

Put down the turkey and settle in for the Battle of Alberta on Wednesday as the Edmonton Oilers travel to Scotiabank Saddledome to face-off against the Calgary Flames.

In addition to the usual bragging rights, the third chapter of the rivalry this season carries extra spice as both teams find themselves in a fight for their playoff lives.

The Flames (16-12-7) are currently fourth in the Pacific Division and in possession of the second Wild Card spot into the playoffs.

Despite having the top two point-scorers in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers (18-15-2) find themselves fifth in the Pacific and one point behind the Flames for a playoff position.

The Flames are 5/7 to be victorious and 1/4 to make the playoffs while the Oilers are 6/5 to win and 5/16 to get into the post-season.

Defence a problem

The Oilers have scored the third highest amount of goals in the league this season, averaging 3.60 per game.

Captain McDavid leads all players with 30 goals, 36 assists and 66 points and Draisaitl is second for assists with 35 and total points of 56.

Their powerplay of 32.3% is the best of all teams, but to the contrary, Edmonton find themselves 24th in the NHL for average goals against, allowing 3.46 per game and their penalty kill is also a lowly 26th at 72.3%.

The Oilers have allowed four goals or more on 15 occasions this season and, despite their high-powered offence, it hasn't been enough to compensate for their leaky defence going 4-9-2 in those fixtures.

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Just once they have managed to keep an opponent to under two goals, which is surprising for a team who, after coach Jay Woodcroft took over last season, was praised for their major improvements in their own end.

In Woodcroft's first 33 games, the Oilers allowed two goals or fewer on 17 occasions, including four shutouts and six one-goal games and an overall 15-1-1 record in that subset of 17 games.

Despite the retirement of experienced defenceman Duncan Keith, the Oilers would not have expected to be in such a defensive pickle, particularly after making a goalie splash in the off-season.

Relief for Skinner

The 24-year-old Stuart Skinner has offered some relief in goal going 10-9-1 with a .911 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average (GAA), after major off-season signing Jack Campbell struggled in his early Oilers career.

The 30-year-old Campbell joined Edmonton from the Toronto Maple Leafs on a five-year, $25million contract but questions remain whether the American is going to be the answer to the Oilers' long-term goalie problems.

Campbell is 8-6-1 with a .876 save percentage (74th of all goalies to appear in the NHL this season) and 4.02 GAA (75th).

Markstrom rebound

After going through a six-game losing streak and stating that his form "sucked", Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom has bounced back with three wins in a row, all on the road.

His .894 save percentage over 24 starts this season and 2.84 GAA falls someway below his career average of .911 and 2.70, but the 32-year-old is showing signs of recovering to his brilliant best.

He'll likely get the start against the Oilers, a team that he hasn't enjoyed facing too much over recent years, particularly in last season's playoffs where the Flames were beaten by McDavid and co. in five games.

However, if coach Daryll Sutter opts to keep him out of the firing line in order to ensure his brittle confidence isn't harmed again, the Flames goal will be kept by 25-year-old Dan Vladar who has offered consistency during Markstrom's struggles going 5-4-3 with a .903 save percentage and 2.90 GAA.

More from Huberdeau

The Calgary Flames had the best forward line in the NHL last season with Elias Lindholm partnering Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau.

In the off-season free-agent Gaudreau left to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Matthew Tkachuk also declared his intention to exit and was traded to the Florida Panthers for forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar.

To match Gaudreau, Huberdeau scored a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) last season, but like the Flames generally has taken time to find consistency this season.

The 29-year-old is fourth on the Flames for points with 23 (six goals, 17 assists) and has been criticised for not shooting enough.

The game against an Oilers team that leak opportunities and goals could be just the start Huberdeau and teammates need to the New Year as they seek to improve their overall average of 3.11 goals per game (18th).

The Flames have conceded an average of 3.03 goals per game which, while an average 15th in the NHL, has so far been enough to keep them in playoff contention.

Coach Sutter has been outspoken in his expectations for the Flames to improve at both ends of the ice, though plans to lower their goals conceded against an Oilers side so stacked with talent is likely to prove a challenge.

Previous meetings

Each side has won one of the previous two meetings this season, with the away team being successful each time. The Flames won 4-3 in Edmonton in mid-October and the Oilers 3-2 in Calgary at the end of that month.

In both games, the Oilers were surprisingly heavily out-shot by the Flames (42-29 and 42-26). Edmonton went 2/8 on the powerplay over the two games and Calgary 1/7.

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