Game Preview: GM 50- Cougars face tough test on the road against the Vancouver Giants

TONIGHT: The Prince George Cougars kick off a two-game weekend road trip tonight in Langley against the Vancouver Giants. The Cougars have won back-to-back games, coming off a midweek sweep of the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Cougars won 6-4 on Tuesday and bested the T-Birds 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday. Prince George is seven points back of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Thunderbirds, who the Cougars play tomorrow, host Everett tonight.

The Giants won their fourth straight game on Tuesday, dismantling the Tri-City Americans 12-4. The 12 goals is a new single-game franchise record. Cole Shepard led the way for Vancouver, as the 17-year-old picked up four points (0-4-4). Vancouver sits in third in the B.C. Division, eight points back of the Victoria Royals, and two points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets. The Giants win streak started on January 26th with a 3-1 win over Kelowna. Since then, they’ve picked up two wins over Kamloops in a weekend home and home and that lopsided with over Tri-City. The four game win streak is a season high, with their previous best being three consecutive wins which they’ve done twice.

TONIGHT: Tonight, is the Cougars 50th game of the season and their record is 16-26-3-4, sitting fifth in the B.C. Division. They’re seven points out of a wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference. Tonight, is the sixth of nine meetings between the Cougars and Vancouver Giants. In the last meeting, Taylor Gauthier earned his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 over the Giants on December 17th. The Cougars are 2-3-0-0 against the Giants this season. Both of the Cougars wins against the Giants this season have come in Langley. Prince George is 7-12-1-3 versus the B.C. Division. Vancouver is 12-7-3-1 against the B.C. Division.

LINE UP: Nothing out of the ordinary for the Cougars. Taylor Gauthier will make his third consecutive start. Gauthier picked up his 12th win on Wednesday and has a 2.79 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 38 games. He has one win in three games against Vancouver this season. Forward Nikita Krivokrasov is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. In an interview last week, Krivokrasov mentioned he is targeting a return to the line up next week either against Calgary on February 15th or Red Deer on February 17th.

David Tendeck is the likely starter for Vancouver and for good reason. This season, the 20-year-old has 14 wins, a 2.19 goals-against average and owns a .923 save percentage. Both Gauthier (9th) and Tendeck (5th) are in the top 10 in the WHL for save percentage among starting goalies. His numbers are even better against, as he is 2-0-0-0, owning a minuscule .50 goals-against average and a .985 save percentage in two games. He picked up a 38 save shutout over the Cougars back on November 16th; one of his three this season.

The Giants are dealing with two injuries up front to Zach Ostapchuk and Kryz Plummer. B0th are listed as indefinite on the WHL Weekly Report with lower-body injuries.

STREAKS: Ilijah Colina and Jack Sander are each riding four-game point streaks. Colina had five points (2-3-5) in the last four games and Sander has five assists. Vladislav Mikhalchuk has six points (3-3-6) in the three of the last four games. Since joining the Giants at the WHL Trade Deadline, Eric Florchuk. has 16 points (5-11-16) in 11 games. He has nine points (1-8-9) in a five game point streak.

COUGARS FOCUS: Playoff mentality. That’s the mindset the Cougars had earlier this week and they’ll need that type of approach this weekend. Four big points are on the table and the Cougars can’t undervalue the importance of this weekend. If they want to get results against Vancouver and Seattle they’ll need that playoff mentality they had this week against Seattle. They have to grind it out.

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