Good news for Heritage Classic foes — somebody has gotta win!

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Of the headliners for the 2023 Heritage Classic, Nickelback might have the most recent success.

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Which is, with all due respect to a band of rockers who had a string of hits and were enshrined earlier this year in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, saying something.

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The Calgary Flames haven’t been winning.

As Nikita Zadorov fumed after their latest loss: “We’re playing like #@&% right now.”

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t been winning.

As Darnell Nurse put it after another disappointing defeat: “Everyone has gotta just look in the mirror at this point and just do a whole lot #@&%ing better.”

With both squads in the sort of slide that even a set of brand-new Bridgestone Blizzaks couldn’t stop, fans on either side of the Battle of Alberta may be hoping for white-out conditions during Sunday’s outdoor game at Commonwealth Stadium. It would be a lot better than what they’ve been watching of late.

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The Flames and Oilers have combined for three victories so far this season. The southerners have sputtered to a 2-5-1 start. Their arch-rivals are even worse at 1-5-1. Heading into one of the NHL’s marquee events, both have dropped four in a row.

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With some tickets still available, maybe they could try this catchy sales slogan — ‘Heritage Classic: Somebody has gotta win!’

“Two teams struggling,” nodded Flames star Jonathan Huberdeau after Friday’s practice at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. “I think you have to take it as an experience. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Even though you’re not at a good spot coming in, it doesn’t happen a lot that you’re going to play outside. For me, it’s my first time, so I want to enjoy. But at the end, we want to come out with a win.

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“We need a win right now.”

They’re not alone.

The Oilers are in a similar funk.

“We have a great opportunity now to forget about the past and just enjoy this weekend,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “I think this game comes at a good time, because it’s easier to forget about the past and really look forward to this outdoor game. It’s a special experience. Everyone is super excited about it.

“It’s such a special thing with the Battle of Alberta, too, so you really forget about this stretch you’ve been in and just really get excited.”

One of these teams will, finally, bust out of a miserable stretch Sunday.

The other will still be ice-cold.

Heritage Classic
Digital rendering of the Commonwealth Stadium field design for the upcoming 2023 Heritage Classic game between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames on Oct. 29. Photo by Supplied Photo /NHL

“With all the excitement around it, it’s still a really big game for us,” Backlund acknowledged. “They’re in a similar spot over there on the other side, and whoever comes out of it (with a win), they’re going to feel a lot better.

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“So it’s a big game, for sure. We don’t want to keep this going. I don’t want to go back to last year, but we did put ourselves in a hole with a seven-game losing streak. And we don’t want to do that again.”

While the Flames could receive a chilly reception at Commonwealth Stadium, where the temperature is forecast to be just below zero for the opening faceoff and a few degrees colder when Nickelback hits the stage at the second intermission, it hasn’t been all that warm and fuzzy at home, either.

During Thursday’s listless loss to the St. Louis Blues, they were booed by their own fans. The consensus is they deserved the jeers — and deserved the bag-skate at the end of Friday’s practice, too.

The Calgary-based crew has been out-scored by a 15-4 margin during their four-game skid. This snakebitten bunch has now gone 118 minutes and 45 seconds without a single snipe.

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Their two highest-paid forwards, chewing up a collective cap-hit of US$17.5 million, have combined for a grand total of five points so far.

Nazem Kadri has one measly assist and a minus-10 rating. Heading into Friday’s action around the circuit, that was tied for the worst mark among all NHL forwards.

Huberdeau has contributed two goals and a pair of helpers, although he’s been skunked in four straight. He’s now minus-9.

The Flames can’t seem to find any chemistry among their forward lines.

Their power-play isn’t producing.

Their best blue-liner, Rasmus Andersson, is still suspended for one more game.

And now, there’s optimism that Connor McDavid could be available Sunday for the home-side. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has missed the past two outings due to injury.

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“We can rally around a big Heritage Classic,” declared Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar after Thursday’s blanking from the Blues. “A big win against Edmonton, and I think we could go on a little roll here.”

After Friday’s practice, starting puck-stopper Jacob Markstrom was asked about the possibility that this unique event might indeed be arriving at the ideal time, that a victory under open skies could be a turning point for his slumping squad.

“We’ll see Monday,” he replied.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

http://On X:@WesGilbertson

Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to calgaryflames@postmedia.com

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