Cougars Oil Kings Preview.
The march towards the 2014 post season continues tonight for the Prince George Cougars who, for the first time this season will welcome the defending Eastern Conference champion Edmonton Oil Kings to town. It’s been an eventful week for the Prince George Cougars and hopefully they can carry some of their recent positivity into the games this weekend.
Derek Laxdal’s Edmonton Oil Kings enter this weekend with the second best record in the Eastern Conference. At 29-13-0-1, the Oil Kings currently trail first placed Calgary by four points in the Central Division. Edmonton will also have some revenge on their minds as they look to redeem themselves after a tough loss to the Cougars at home back on November 22nd, 2013.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Leading the charge offensively for Edmonton this season is third-year forward and Phoenix Coyotes first rounder Henrik Samuelsson. In just 37 games this season, Samuelsson has 18 goals and 52 points. Samuelsson is an excellent puck-handler with a pro-level shot and his size and grit make him a very difficult player to defend.
WHO’S ON D:
Though the Oil Kings boast three defenders with 28 points or more, their most steady and stable defenceman is not necessarily known for his offensive upside. Selected fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Griffin Reinhart has accomplished it all as a junior hockey player. Twice he has represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Twice he has played in the WHL Championship final, winning one back in 2012. With so little left to prove at this level, right now the major key for Griffin Reinhart is to refine and polish his game. Fans can expect to see a ton of Reinhart in all major situations this weekend. So far this season, Reinhart has two goals and 11 points this season.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Notably absent from the 8-3 loss back on the 22nd of November was Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry. Jarry watched from the stands as the Cougars downed the Oil Kings 8-3, chasing former Cougars netminder Tyler Santos in the process. There is little doubt that Jarry, a Pittsburgh Penguins signed prospect will play one if not both games for the Oil Kings this weekend, which is not good news for the Cougars. Coming into this weekend, Jarry is tied for the league lead in shutouts and has compiled a record of 26-11-0-1 with a 2.30 goals-against-average and a .912 save percentage.
Though Henrik Samuelsson is the statistical leader for Edmonton offensively, the argument could certainly be made that the actual ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for the Oil Kings is third year forward, and Ottawa Senators draft pick Curtis Lazar. Selected second overall in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, Lazar has put it all together this season and has been Mr. Everything for Edmonton. With 22 goals, 41 points and a +27 rating, Lazar has really honed in on improving his two-way play this season. He’s got excellent speed, a pro-calibre shot and was a legitimate standout player for Canada during the recent World Junior Hockey Championship Tournament.
Mark Holick’s Prince George Cougars come into this weekend’s action looking to build off of their recent 4-3 shootout victory over the Kamloops Blazers. Slowly but surely the Cougars are on the mend from injury, and with Tri-City playing three games in three nights this weekend, the Cougars will look to inch a little closer by taking care of their own business against the Oil Kings. The Cougars record currently sits at 17-23-2-4 the Cougars are still six points ahead of their pace a season ago, but remain four points back of eighth place in the Western Conference.
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Consistency is a term that is often overused or misused in hockey circles these days, but when it comes to 20-year-old forward Todd Fiddler, there is no denying the legitimacy of his consistency. Fresh off a nine point week, Fiddler was named the Denny’s WHL Player of the Week earlier this week. In 26 games with the Cougars, Fiddler has tallied 22 goals and 44 points. Back on November 22nd against Edmonton, Fiddler recorded a five point game and was named the game’s first star for his efforts. If the Cougars want to give the Oil Kings a run for their money this weekend, Fiddler is going to have to rise to the occasion yet again.
WHO’S ON D:
All signs are point towards 19-year-old defenceman Wil Tomchuk making his Cougars debut this weekend against the Oil Kings. Tomchuk will never wow you with his offensive flash, but what he does provide is some steady, physical two-way play. The key for Tomchuk this weekend is to keep his game simple and to not try and over-compensate in any particular area. If Tomchuk can play the body, make smart passes and protect the front of his net, hopefully his younger defensive counterparts can follow suit.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Earlier this week Cougars rookie goaltender Ty Edmonds was impressive during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary. The Winnipeg, MB product turned aside 16 of the 17 shots he faced for Team Cherry and hopefully he can build some confidence from that game. It’s no secret that Edmonds had his share of struggles a weekend ago in Vancouver, and now with Adam Beukeboom in the fold, Edmonds’ playing time might be reduced somewhat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The inner competition between Beukeboom, Edmonds and Brett Zarowny will be a very interesting storyline to watch as the home stretch of the season unfolds. Does Beukeboom get the nod again tonight after beating Kamloops last weekend? Or does Mark Holick elect to go back with Edmonds?
The Edmonton Oil Kings are a championship calibre type of team who are used to winning games, and can never be counted out of games. If the Cougars want to be successful this weekend they are going to have to stay disciplined, make good on their scoring chances, and cannot be afraid to throw the body. Edmonton has a great mix of size, speed and experience and the Cougars are going to have to trust their own abilities and rise to the challenge that the Oil Kings present.
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