Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Dec. 30, 7:00 PM
Where: Coliseum, Prince George
Been awhile, hasn't it!
The Smokies return from a much-needed holiday break for a one-off in Prince George tonight as the team look for their first points of the month in the 2011 curtain-closer. The team made the fourteen-hour bus trek to PG Thursday and should be plenty rested for tonight's matchup, the third of seven between the two sides and the final one (this season) away from the Cominco Arena.
The Smokies' goal for the second half of the season is to play .500 hockey, which I think is doable, despite the team's record. 15 of Trail's final 28 games are at home (including a five-game homestand through the first half of January), and given the right mix of hard work and the odd bounce, this club could take advantage of the remaining games on the schedule to build a solid foundation for next season. The batteries have been recharged, and tonight's game in Prince George will serve as a good first indication for what fans in Trail can expect for the first three months of 2012.
Last Meeting: Prince George won both ends of a weekend two-step October 14th and 15th at the Coliseum, by scores of 8-0 and 5-2. They lead the season series 2-0.
Our Opponent: The Spruce Kings are right in the mix for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. PG (37 points), sit two points up on Vernon (who lost the front end of a home-and-home with Salmon Arm last night) for fourth place, and are coming off a big 4-2 victory in Chilliwack on Wednesday. Up front, Paul DeJersey continues to enjoy a remarkable season, with 61 points (which entering play tonight was tied for first in the BCHL with Penticton's Connor Reilly); fellow forwards Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone offer plenty of spark to the Spruce King arsenal too. In fact the bulk of PG's scoring comes from the forwards, no d-man on the roster has more than three goals this season. Two former Smokies should figure prominently tonight; blueliner Ben Matthews is one of the aforementioned defensemen with three goals, while new pickup Mike Betz has scored only 4 points in 9 games, but was more than a point-per-game player as a 17 year-old in Trail in 2009-10.
In the Press Box: Smokies are without forward Josh Roberts and defenseman Shane Poulsen, while forwards Adam Fares and Luke Bertolucci could be back sooner rather than later. The Spruce Kings have no listed injuries.
Broadcast Info: I haven't made the trip north so no Trail broadcast this evening. Matt Soper has your PPV (and free audio), available here.
Local Hockey Tonight: Beaver Valley and Castlegar renew hostilities again tonight (7:00, Beaver Valley Arena). The Rebels rode goals from Arthur Andrews, Tyler Robinson and Tyler Jones to a 3-1 win over the 'Hawks Thursday in Castlegar. Nelson returns from the holiday break to open up a home-and-home in Spokane tonight.
Bits & Bites: Had the pleasure of meeting Powell River Kings play-caller Alex Rawnsley last night in Coquitlam as the Express eked out a 2-1 home ice victory. Former Smokie Rajan Sidhu was held off the scoresheet but played a lot of minutes. "Sid" and the Express are in Trail January 13th.