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Alberta could be a tough place for NHL teams to visit

The Calgary Flames are eagerly awaiting their own home opener on Saturday against the Oilers after falling 3-1 in Edmonton on Thursday - when the Western Conference Championship banner was raised in the rival city to start the season. But they can make their own fans just as happy as the sold out crowd of 16,839 faithful in Alberta's capital were by evening both teams' records at 1-1 in their next encounter.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla is itching for another shot at the Oilers and glad he doesn't have long to wait.

"It's exciting to start the season like this," he said. "I wish it had gone the other way this first game but it's great getting another crack at them right away instead of having to wait a month or something. Now we'll have another chance in our building right away to make up for not winning this one."

Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff feels the Flames will be better prepared for the rematch.

"There was a lot to learn from this game," he said. "I think we can be a harder skating team and more physical. I believe we are going to be there Saturday. You want to win that first game but it would be just as good to win in our first game at home."

The Oilers and Flames may get excited about playing each other but it looks like not many other teams will be over the moon about travelling through Alberta this year as the rival cities could once again establish the reputation as being Death Valley for visiting teams hitting both barns.

"For a while there both teams were rebuilding," said Iginla. "I think these are two very solid teams right now. We have a lot of respect for the Oilers. They are a good team. And in our building I believe

we will make it hard on teams too. I think it is going to be a good division again."

"I don't know about Edmonton but I do know the Saddledome will be a very tough place to play," added Kiprusoff.

Calgary coach Jim Playfair believes both legs of an Alberta road trip will be difficult in 2006-07.

"That's the expectation of both organizations," he said. "I think it is something we are both committed too. Where the game has to be played is the hard areas and we are both committed to doing that."


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