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Little Battle as Flames Work Rust Off Against Oilers



Nazem Kadri, NHL, Calgary Flames
Steve Macfarlane, CHN

It was far from the Battle of Alberta we saw in the spring. No Connor McDavid, Leon Draisatl, Evander Kane … well, no Edmonton Oilers stars at all. But the Calgary Flames iced a regular-season heavy lineup and there enough entertaining moments to make Game 4 of the preseason schedule interesting.

Veterans Brett Sutter and Michael Stone did the early damage on the scoreboard, each earning both a goal and assist in the second period. MacKenzie Weegar scored on a nice setup from Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Huberdeau roofed the puck into an empty net and the Flames came away with a 2-0 victory at the Saddledome.

Here are some of the storylines that were worth watching.

Mackenzie Weegar watch

Still no contract, but Weegar didn’t hurt his case for more dough. You hear a lot about the subtleties of his game defensively. He was the opposite of understated, though, plucking pucks off Oilers opponents regularly and seemingly easily.

Weegar’s active stick, long reach and incredibly strong body positioning reminds me of a quicker, slicker Chris Tanev. And that’s not a criticism of Tanev in any way.

He made one memorable play-killing move in each of the first two periods.

Then he flashed his big shot late in the third period, whipping an accurate wrister after collecting a cross-ice pass from Kadri.

Weegar’s offensive numbers may not be the best on this team by the end of this season if he’s not on the top powerplay, but Weegar could be their best all-around blueliner for 2022-23.

“He’s a good player,” Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter said after the game. “He’s had a really good camp, right from the start. He’s pushing to play higher, play more, play situations.”

Powerplay flashy, needs finish

The Calgary Flames had the top even-strength line in the league last year, and they also contributed to the NHL’s 10th ranked powerplay unit in 2021-22. With the loss of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, things look very different.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Elias Lindholm and Rasmus Andersson/Noah Hanifin moved the puck extremely well on the night. Both blueliners had some extended time with the four forwards.

Goals are the goal, however. And while nobody should be overly concerned about a lack of preseason production, it would be nice to see some of those moves translate into scoring.

Debut of Nazem Kadri

Especially noticeable on the powerplay, Kadri showed some speed, vision and touch in his Calgary Flames debut. After a long playoff run, head coach Darryl Sutter gave him a little more time than some others to get into the action, but Kadri said earlier in the day he had the itch.

“It’s exciting for me. You don’t want to play six, seven, eight of them but maybe two, three four is OK,” Kadri said after the morning skate. “It’s just an opportunity to recharge. Last game was a pretty memorable one for me so it’s nice to get back into the swing of things and tighten the routine up. It’s hockey season again.”

Kadri was prominent in other people’s chances all night long.

He didn’t show any of his trademark snarl in his first outing. But there’s little doubt it will rise to the surface when the regular-season Battle of Alberta rolls around.

Markstrom makes his Mark

The crest on the jerseys in front of him might still give him nightmares. But he pitched a shutout through two periods of work against the Oilers. He wasn’t tested by any large stretch of the imagination. Markstrom was solid, though, keeping rebounds to a minimum and looking comfortable and positionally sound after the summer layoff.

Facing about as many shots as he saw in a single period during the second-round loss to the Oilers in the spring, Markstrom blocked all 12 on net.

“It was good to get him a couple of periods, get him back in. Solid,” Sutter said. “He’s worked really hard the whole camp. Goes out early, stays late, puts a lot of work in.”

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