24 hours removed from a 3-0 shutout loss to Calgary, the Prince George Cougars need to turn the page and think ahead to tonight’s battle with the Edmonton Oil Kings. For the first time this season the Cougars are set to clash with Edmonton, and once again the Cougars are going up against a tough Eastern Conference opponent who has had their number in recent seasons. The Cougars have shown this season that they have the ability to bounce back from disappointing outings, and hopefully tonight is no different.
Derek Laxdal’s Edmonton Oil Kings come into tonight’s game red hot having won eight of their last 10 games. They are currently ranked fifth in the 12 team Eastern Conference standings, and through 23 games have surrendered by far the fewest goals against in the entire Eastern Conference.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Phoenix Coyotes first rounder Henrik Samuelsson leads the Oil Kings with 31 points in 23 games so far this season. Samuelsson has a lot of versatility to his game in that he can fight, score, hit, pass and agitate with the best of them. Add the fact that he’s got the likes of Curtis Lazar and Mitch Moroz to compliment him, and the Oil Kings certainly have as potent an offensive trio as any team in the WHL.
WHO’S ON D:
On the back end it’s hard to ignore the hard-hitting, smooth skating, dependable Griffin Reinhart. The New York Islanders first rounder from 2012 gives the Oil Kings a nice little mix of everything from the back end. He can contribute offensively (seven points) while providing a TON of reliable and steady minutes on the back end against the opposing team’s top players. Reinhart will one day be a staple in the NHL, and for good reason.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry has really come on as of late for the Edmonton Oil Kings. No longer is Jarry lurking in the shadows of Laurent Brossoit. He knew that it was his team this season, and he has done everything in his power to inspire the confidence of his teammates and coaching staff. He is 13-7 this season with a 2.08 goals-against-average and three shutouts.
Tip-toeing off of the red-hot Jarry is the fact that the Edmonton Oil Kings might be the top defensive team in the Eastern Conference, let alone the WHL. This team makes you earn every single inch of ice that you get, and you can bet that if they score three or more goals in a game, they end up winning more often than not. In order to find success tonight the Cougars are going to need to hit them every possible chance they get, and hope that their physicality can force some mistakes.
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars come into tonight’s game with the ninth best record in the WHL’s Western Conference. At 9-14-1-3 the Cougars remain three points back of the Vancouver Giants for eighth place in the West, and will need to dig deep tonight to try and inch a little closer against a tough Edmonton opponent.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Last night in Calgary the Prince George Cougars best players simply were not their best players. There were too many careless passes, broken plays, and simply not enough killer instinct displayed by almost every single member of the Prince George Cougars roster. That must change tonight because Edmonton will really make you pay otherwise. The Cougars are likely without the services of Zach Pochiro tonight who suffered an injury in the second period of last night’s game and did not return. Pochiro’s absence is a tough loss, but also could provide an opportunity for a younger player to take advantage of the opportunity.
WHO’S ON D:
The Oil Kings don’t have the type of offensive depth that they have had in previous seasons, but that hardly means that the Cougars defense can expect an easy night. Defensively the Cougars were okay in spurts last night in Calgary, but similar to the forwards there just simply wasn’t enough killer instinct displayed on the back end. The Cougars are going to need the likes of Raymond Grewal, Marc McNulty and Peter Kosterman to take advantage of their minutes and play a steady and simple game for the Cougars.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Perhaps the only Cougar who put forth a strong 60-minute effort last night was goaltender Brett Zarowny who was solid for a second consecutive game. Granted he still lost, but Zarowny is showing signs of maturity in that he’s less frantic in his goal crease, and his rebound control has been noticeably better in recent starts. It might be Ty Edmonds turn to go against Edmonton, but Brett Zarowny certainly is deserving should he get the nod again.
The Prince George Cougars road penalty killing percentage is currently ranked dead last in the WHL with a success rate of just over 64 percent for the season so far. That is not good enough by any stretch, and that needs to change in a hurry if the Cougars want to start winning more games on the road. Last night’s game was yet another where special teams played a vital role in their demise. A better special teams performance tonight would certainly go a long way in helping the Cougars back into the win column.