CALGARY – It’s early in the pre-season but new Edmonton linemates Patrick O’Sullivan and Mike Comrie are already looking comfortable as linemates.
O’Sullivan scored twice and Comrie added a pair of assists Tuesday night to lead Edmonton to a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. “We think the game fairly similar, and tonight we had some good chemistry going,” said O’Sullivan. “Mike’s a smart player. If I find open space, he’s going to get the puck to me.”
Edmonton is hoping that the return of Comrie and a full season from O’Sullivan will help spark an offence that ranked 18th last season.
The two goals for O’Sullivan Tuesday matches the two he scored for Edmonton in 19 games last year after coming over from the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline as part of a four-team trade.
Entering his fourth NHL season and first training camp with Edmonton, O’Sullivan likes the make-up of the young club including the veteran coaching presence of head coach Pat Quinn and associate coach Tom Renney.
“Things are definitely going in the right direction,” said O’Sullivan. “The staff that’s here, it’s the right group for the team. Everyone’s pretty excited to move forward and keep building throughout training camp and have a good season.”
O’Sullivan made a favourable first impression on Quinn.
“O’Sullivan had a heck of a game, he really did. I hope it continues that way,” Quinn said. “It’s the first time I’m seeing some of these guys up close and he had a solid game.”
Comrie just signed with the Oilers last week as a free agent. He has played with four different NHL teams since being traded by Edmonton late in the 2002-03 season”.
“You try to make your linemates better players, and they really try to do the same thing,” said Comrie, who is coming off a season in which he scored a career-low 10 goals. “It’s a long pre-season, and the guys are just trying to feel each other out.”
Edmonton also got goals from Tom Gilbert and Shawn Horcoff, who scored into an empty net.
With Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow, and Rene Bourque among the notable Flames forwards that did not play, Calgary failed to generate many dangerous scoring chances.
The Flames’ lone goal came at 10:26 of the third when Jamie Lundmark’s pass sprung Jason Jaffray on a breakaway and the former Vancouver Canucks farmhand snapped a shot past goaltender Devan Dubnyk to get the Flames within a goal.
“Obviously you want to win the hockey game, but it is the pre-season and you’re learning a new system,” Jaffray said. “You’re trying to provide offence whenever you get the opportunity and I was lucky to get one tonight.”
Forty-one-year-old Theoren Fleury, attempting a comeback from a six year NHL absence, was also not in uniform for Calgary, nor were any of the Flames top five defencemen including summer free agent acquisition Jay Bouwmeester.
That left a blue-line Tuesday night comprised of guys battling for the sixth and seventh defenceman spots. Among that group, new Flames head coach Brent Sutter thought Anton Stralman stood out the most.
“I thought Stralman was very good tonight, he might have been the best player on the ice,” Sutter said.
Of the four goaltenders that saw playing time, only Edmonton starter Jeff Deslauriers was flawless stopping all 13 shots he faced in the games’ first 30 minutes.
Edmonton struck first at 10:58 of the first period when O’Sullivan whipped a wrist shot past Matt Keetley from just inside the blue-line.
The trio of Comrie, O’Sullivan and Ryan Stone struck again 1:25 into the second period when Comrie shot the puck towards the goal and it caromed in off the leg of O’Sullivan.
In the first pre-season game for both teams, Quinn and Sutter got their first taste of the Battle of Alberta.
“You could tell before the game we had guys that were pretty nervous,” said Sutter. “We had guys that played much better in the third than they did in the first two periods, especially the experienced guys.”
Notes: A pair of Flames were wearing new jersey numbers. Brandon Prust wore No. 33 after wearing No. 29 when he was originally with Calgary. Defenceman Adam Pardy has switched from No. 55 to No. 7… Off-season acquisition Nigel Dawes dressed for Calgary and played on a line with Dustin Boyd and David Moss. Dawes has 133 games of NHL experience, a majority coming with the New York Rangers before being traded to Phoenix last season and playing 12 games with the Coyotes… Former Calgary Hitmen defenceman Alex Plante was in the Oilers line-up. Plante, Edmonton’s first round draft pick in 2007 (15th overall), played the past four seasons with the WHL team”.