The Rebels got a monkey off their back last weekend with two wins against the Calgary Hitmen, but now they have their sights set on the top spot in the Central Division.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes has been a thorn in the Rebels side all season. In the four matchups so far, Lethbridge has manhandled the Rebels with four wins. The closest was a 4-3 Rebels loss on Jan. 8, but before that the Hurricanes topped the Rebels by scores of 5-2, 6-2 and 6-1.
It’s two teams fighting for the top of their division on the second to last weekend of the regular season in a home-and-home two game set. Hockey fans couldn’t really ask for more.
“Our preparation is no different than it has been in the last week to 10 days,” said Rebels head coach and GM Brent Sutter.
“It’s March, it’s the time of year when you have to have your A game. We have to make sure we stay level-headed through all this.
“We know they are two big games. We have to go in there and play well in their building and go from there.”
The Rebels sit three points behind the Hurricanes, 90 to 87, each with five games left in the season. Two regulation wins would vault the Rebels into first place in the Central Division with three games left to play.
Sutter said both teams are playing well, but notes a few guys will still be out of the lineup. Goalie Rylan Toth, Defenceman Josh Mahura and forward Reese Johnson are all still listed as injured for the Rebels.
The Hurricanes have forward Giorgio Estephan back in the lineup while forwards Egor Babenko and Justin Guiterrez are still injured.
“I know the way they’re going to play, it’s how they’ve been playing all year,” said Sutter. “There’s not going to be any surprises. They’re going to play hard, they’re going to use their speed and skill and they’re going to work hard.
“We have to be able to match that and I think our team is really good too. I think it has taken us a while, but now we’re starting to get our game to where it needs to be and that’s what you want at this time of year.”
Sutter said the schedule is tough for the next five games, after the two with Lethbridge they have one more at home against Calgary before a final home-and-home set against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“It’s good to go down the stretch and as you get close to the playoffs you have to play tough teams to make sure you’re ready to play,” said Sutter. “You fight for first, that’s your goal at the start of the year. It’s a difference for us of whether you play Calgary in the first round or Regina. Both those teams are good teams and there are no easy games come playoff time.
“Right now we’re behind, Lethbridge has three points on us, and they only way we’re going to finish in first is by beating them.”