Friday, March 2, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Mar. 2, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The final two meetings of the year between Trail and Prince George kick off tonight at Cominco Arena with the Smokies still searching for their first points of the season set. Short-staffed Trail is coming off a tough 4-3 overtime loss two nights ago against Merritt, a game in which they held a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes only to see a depleted roster run out of energy by game's end.

Despite the injuries (see more below), Trail will try to use this weekend as a springboard to a strong finish. A February that started with such promise ended with a nine-game skid and no doubt everyone in orange and black will be anxious to put more points on the board over the final half-dozen games. Not only that, the games ahead will continue to serve as an audition for the potential returnees, and no better way to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff than to help the team to a strong finish.

Last Meeting: PG took a weekend sweep from Trail three weeks ago with 4-1 and 4-2 wins, the back end being helped along by a three-goal first period, including two from Gerry Fitzgerald. The Spruce Kings lead the seven-game season series 5-0.

Our Opponent: PG is relatively healthy, but maybe a bit road weary as they embark on their second straight three-in-three away weekend. That said, the Spruce Kings are still very much in the hunt for second place in the Interior Conference, trailing Merritt by four points with two games in hand (the Cents lost at home to Penticton last night after their overtime win against the Smokies Wednesday). Despite a vibrant top line that includes league scoring leader Paul DeJersey, my difference-makers from three weekends ago were easily the Fitzgerald triplets, who made life miserable for Trail's D and chipped in four of the eight Prince George goals over the two-game set.

In the Press Box: For Trail, Adam Fares, Marley Keca and Brandon Long are all out for the rest of the season, while Luke Bertolucci and Joren Johnson will likely both miss out with knocks. PG defenseman Cody Bardock is close to returning (per S'Kings guru Ron Gallo) but isn't expected to play.

Broadcast Info: Catch the pay-per-view and requisite free audio here, pre-game at 7:25, faceoff at 7:30.

KIJHL Update: Both local series wrapped up last night with Beaver Valley disposing of Spokane 7-2 (to win their series in five games), while the Castlegar Rebels secured a 4-1 series triumph over Nelson with a 4-2 home win last night. Scott Morisseau and Stuart Walton each had 10 points for Castlegar, and for the second straight year the younger Walton brother eliminated the older sibling (Leafs goaltender Andrew) from post-season contention. Castlegar and Beaver Valley now meet for the Neil Murdoch division crown for the second consecutive year, with the series tentatively set to begin Tuesday in Fruitvale.

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