Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Vernon Vipers
When: Jan. 9, 7:00 pm
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon

It's back to business, and back to focusing on what's happening ON the ice tonight as the Smokies visit Vernon for the final time this season. Trail were unlucky not to come away with points in weekend tilts against Surrey and Merritt, and as such look for victory #1 of 2013 this evening in a building that has brought them success this season.

Tonight also marks the second in a stretch of six games against divisional opponents, and with the next four games after tonight all against Salmon Arm (3x) and West Kelowna (1x), there's little doubt the Smoke Eaters would love to enter the weekend having halved the distance between themselves and the playoffs.

To win tonight, though, will require another team effort. A night after icing their first AP-free lineup since November in a 6-3 loss against Surrey, Trail were without five regulars including top scorers Brent Baltus and Garrett McMullen for Saturday's loss in Merritt. No question the shortage of healthy bodies has its strains, but it also provides players the opportunity to see more ice in different roles, and each of the affiliates called up by Bill Birks' squad this season has done a simple, effective job.

Last Meeting: The Vipers raced out to a 4-0 lead in Trail December 15th, only to see the Smokies fall a crossbar shy of forcing overtime in a 4-3 decision. Each team has won three times with tonight marking the final matchup of the seven-game season series.

Our Opponent: Vernon are certainly in unfamiliar ground, sitting dead last in the Interior division, but are coming into tonight's game on the heels of a wild 4-3 overtime win over West Kelowna Saturday that saw Castlegar products Aaron Hadley and Ryan Renz account for three of the Vipers' 4 goals. The win brought Vernon back to within two points of fifth-place Trail. Up front, the Smokies would do well to contain sniper Adam Tambellini, who has five goals and eight points in the season series and scored twice the last time out against the Smokies. Vernon are without 20 year-old forward Pearce Eviston after he was sent home according to the Vernon Morning Star. The club also signed defenseman Jason Bird, who skated last season in Coquitlam. He will not play tonight.

In the Press Box: Trail were without Baltus, McMullen, Bryce Knapp, Shane Poulsen and Bennett Hambrook during Saturday's loss in Merritt. Each are being treated as "day-to-day." Vernon will be without new defenseman Bird as well as forward Craig Martin. Defensemen Brett Corkey and Geoff Crisfield returned to the Vipers' lineup last weekend after both were hurt before the break.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game on FAST Hockey pay-per-view, or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pregame coverage begins at 6:50 with puck drop set for 7:00.

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