CALGARY — Back in Calgary where he played for the past three seasons, Derek Ryan looked right at home despite wearing visiting colours.
Ryan and first-round draft pick Xavier Bourgault each had a goal and an assist on Sunday night as the Edmonton Oilers opened the pre-season with a dominant 4-0 win over the Flames.
“It feels good to come out here, back in the Saddledome, and have a good game,” said Ryan, 34, who as a free agent signed a two-year, $2.5-million deal in July. “A lot of different emotions coming back here. Spent three good years here.”
After a scoreless first period, Edmonton blew the game open with four straight in the second.
Bourgault set up Ryan's goal at 6:20 on the power play, which made it 2-0. Eight minutes later, Ryan returned the favour and set up Bourgault to make it 3-0.
“He's a reliable guy, thinks the game well, plays in so many situations. He'll be a nice asset for us,” said Oilers coach Dave Tippett of Ryan.
Colton Sceviour, the third member of that line who is at camp on a professional tryout, had two assists.
James Hamblin and Brendan Perlini also scored for the Oilers, who outshot Calgary 49-15.
“The group came out there, battled hard, played really tight defensively, had a couple of big saves when we needed it, and just played a really good team game,” Ryan said. “It's a fun way to start the pre-season when you have some offence and some success. Everyone's happy and everybody looks good.”
Also standing out on the blue line was 2018 first-rounder Evan Bouchard, who led both teams with six shots in 22:05 of ice time. He finished with a plus-2 rating.
“You really want to get the feel for the puck and really finding those shooting lanes, and there's not really a better time to work on it than exhibition games, so I was really trying to do that,” said Bouchard.
After playing 14 games last season with Edmonton, the 21-year-old is looking to make the jump to being a fixture in the lineup this season.
“His poise with the puck is really strong,” Tippet said of Bouchard. “He's come up the right ways, he understands the game now, he understands expectations for him. And now it's time for him to do it.”
It was the first game with fans at the Saddledome since the Flames played Vegas on March 8, 2020. But there were plenty of empty seats with the estimated crowd size around half of the normal capacity of 19,289.
“It was awesome,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter on having fans back in the rink. “That was the best part. When you think about it, there was only three or four of our guys who played in front of fans last year. So it was pretty awesome.”
But Sutter felt the team's performance left plenty of opportunity for improvement.
“You just evaluate the individuals,” he said. “Our defencemen were not good enough below the goal line to get the pucks and move pucks, so it was tough to get a rhythm.”
In the first pre-season game for both teams, there was a lack of star power dressed from either side.
Calgary scratched its top two lines in camp, top defence pairing, and No. 1 goaltender Jacob Markstrom. The Oilers lineup – without Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl among many other regulars – boasted even less experience.
Both teams split their goaltending. After Dan Vladar was beaten twice on 23 shots, Adam Werner finished up for Calgary, making 24 stops.
For the Oilers, starter Stuart Skinner was perfect in his half of game action, stopping all eight shots he faced. Ilya Konovalov made seven saves in relief.
NOTES: Making their Calgary debut on defence were a pair of free-agent signings: Nikita Zadorov, who paired with Rasmus Andersson, and Erik Gudbranson, who lined up beside Juuso Valimaki.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2021.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press