Any resemblance between the team that was thrashed twice to open the WHL regular season and the Lethbridge Hurricanes crew that will tangle with the Red Deer Rebels tonight will be strictly coincidental.
The Hurricanes have added a number of players since last weekend’s back-to-back, one-sided setbacks and figure to ice a stronger team this evening at the Centrium.
“They’re going to be hungry for a win and they’re getting a few guys back for tomorrow’s game,” Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin said on Thursday.
Indeed, the current Lethbridge roster now features defenceman Brennan Yadlowski, who has returned from the Philadelphia Flyers camp, rearguards Mike Reddington and Landon Oslanski — by way of a trade with Spokane that sent forward Kyle Beach to the Chiefs — and forwards Radim Valchar, who scored 21 goals with Portland last season, and Mitch Maxwell, an AJHL all-star with Olds last winter.
“And I hear Ashton is supposed to be back, as well,” added Wallin, in reference to Tampa Bay Lightning first-round draft pick forward Carter Ashton.
As a result, the Rebels can expect that their southern Alberta foes will offer a challenge that simply wasn’t presented to the Kootenay Ice or Medicine Hat Tigers, respective 8-1 and 7-3 winners over Lethbridge on the season-opening weekend.
“Last weekend is irrelevant,” said Wallin. “It’s about tomorrow night and we’re going to approach it just like any other game. We have to take control of what we can do and the way we play, focus on the first 20 minutes and take it from there.
“We want to play hard. We want to be an aggressive team that pressures hard with the forecheck. I thought we did a good job of that last Saturday (in a 7-1 win over Kootenay) and that’s what we want to continue to do. We want to build off of that game. That’s the way we want to play and the identity that we want to establish.”
Simply put, Wallin is more concerned with his own team than he is with the Hurricanes.
“You can’t dwell on the other team, especially at this time of the year,” he said. “You don’t know a lot about other teams, so it’s more about us dictating the play. We want to establish our game plan and make sure we’re doing things the right way. If we take care of that, the rest takes care of itself.”
While the ‘Canes will ice a stronger lineup tonight than was the case six and seven days ago, the Rebels’ roster will be weakened if forward Landon Ferraro is unable to play due to a minor knee injury. Wallin, however, said Ferraro is “probable” for the 7:30 p.m. contest and also admitted that he’s toying with the notion of getting Czech defenceman Jindrich Barak into the lineup in the event that Alex Petrovic can’t play.
Petrovic hurt his ankle in practice this week and is listed as ‘day-to-day’.
Just notes: While Lethbridge GM Rich Preston was tickled to receive hard-nosed veteran Reddington from Spokane, Chiefs GM Tim Speltz was equally excited at landing Beach, the Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft, a talented and potential game-breaker who has also been dogged by a lack of discipline. “Kyle Beach is the complete package,” Speltz told the Everett Herald. “He’s big, physical, skilled and sees the game very well offensively. He will complement our forwards because of the dimensions he brings.” Beach had 67 goals and 87 assists in 159 games with Everett before being dealt to Lethbridge last season, and was the WHL rookie of the year in 2006-07. However, he was targeted by officials as the league’s No. 1 agitator and holds the Everett franchise record for penalty minutes with 528 minutes . . . The Regina Pats placed Mitch Czibere on waivers on Thursday, essentially handing the club’s three 20-year-old spots to wingers Matt Strueby and Brett Lefler, and defenceman Matt Delahey . . . The Saskatoon Blades thought they had decided on their three overage players when GM Lorne Molleken dealt forward Chris Langkow to the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday. Two days later, defenceman Sam Klassen was reassigned to the Blades by the New York Rangers and Saskatoon again has four 20-year-olds, with forwards Milan Kytnar, Derek Hulak and Walker Wintoneak also in the mix. As a result, Molleken was attempting to swing another deal on Thursday afternoon. “We have to look at all of the different scenarios,” the Blades GM told the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. “We have to see where our strengths lie, where our weaknesses lie, and then put a number of players into the equation. That’s what we’re sorting through right now.” . . . Matt Calvert may be playing himself out of consideration for one of the Brandon Wheat Kings’ overage spots. Calvert was named the second star of the game after scoring once and adding an assist for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-5 NHL preseason shootout win over the Boston Bruins this week. Calvert, one of 21 forwards remaining on Columbus’ 36-player pre-season roster, topped the Traverse City prospects tournament in scoring with five goals and seven points and has continued to impress the Blue Jackets in two pre-season games. “He was probably our best player in Traverse City in both of the last two years and he hasn’t taken a step back in the main camp,” Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson, whose club drafted Calvert in the fifth round (127th overall) in 2008, told the Brandon Sun. “He’s tenacious on the puck, he’s reliable, he manages the puck well, he’s competitive, so he just continues to get better here at the main camp.” Forwards Jay Fehr, Aaron Lewadniuk and Del Cowan are the three 20-year-olds currently with the Wheat Kings . . . Red Deer products Mitch Topping and Jeff Einhorn, who is currently injured, are among eight defenceman remaining on the Chilliwack Bruins’ roster following this week’s reassignment of Carter Berg. Topping is a Bruins rookie while Einhorn joined the club last season . . .The Calgary Hitmen, after winning their first two games of the 2009-10 season, are ranked No. 1 in the latest CHL top-10 list. Saskatoon is ranked sixth and Brandon ninth . . . Kootenay Ice coach Mark Holick was scratching his head after watching his club’s uneven opening-weekend performance. The Ice dominated the Lethbridge Hurricanes in an 8-1 home-ice win and were crushed 7-1 by the host Red Deer Rebels 24 hours later. “I wish I knew,” Holick told the Kootenay News Advertiser. “As good as we were on Friday we were equally bad on Saturday. We were second to every puck, didn’t compete and just didn’t get it. It was disappointing for a team that has as many returning guys as ours. We had plenty of passengers on Saturday.” While the Ice stepped right off the bus after a five and a half hour trip to Red Deer, Holick wasn’t using that as an excuse. “Sure it’s a long day. You leave here at 10:30 for a 7:30 game so it’s a long day of travel, but the Kootenay Ice have been doing that for a long time. You can’t start making excuses now,” he said. “We didn’t even have bus legs. We didn’t have any legs whatsoever.”