The Sarnia Sting will be out to snap a three-game losing streak when they host the Kitchener Rangers Thursday night at the RBC Centre.
Game time for the Ontario Hockey League contest is 7:05 p.m.
(Fans are reminded that children aged 12 and under will be admitted for just $5).
Sarnia has slipped to ninth place in the Western Conference standings at 13-14-3-1 while Kitchener sits in third spot with a 19-7-2-1 record.
Sting head coach Dave MacQueen says Kitchener, who will make their first appearance in Sarnia this season, will be a tough opponent.
“Kitchener was regarded as one of the best teams in the entire Canadian Hockey League before the season began and they have lived up to that billing,” says MacQueen. “They have got depth, they have a good blue line, have received consistent goaltending, they work hard and they have two or three guys who are game changers. One of the things we have to do is match their work ethic.”
The two teams have met once so far this season, last month in Kitchener, with the Rangers posting a 1-0 victory in what many said was one of the most entertaining games of the season.
“It was one of the best games to be involved in. It was back and forth with great scoring opportunities and both goaltenders were outstanding. It was certainly not a 1-0 snooze-fest. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a goal, but it was a well-played game,” said MacQueen.
MacQueen feels the solution to his team’s recent woes is simple.
“We need our veteran players to step up to the plate. If that happens we’ll be okay. It’s one thing for our young players to perform well, but the onus is always on your veteran players who are held to a higher standards because they have been in the league three or four years.”
Although not pleased with his team’s showing over the last three games, MacQueen knows his team must continue forward.
“Sure, you aren’t happy when you lose any game. But the game in Brampton there was some intangibles while I’m not going to base our entire season by the games against Guelph and Windsor. We knew coming into this season we still had a young team and there were going to be some highs and lows. The key is not to go on the lows for very long.”
One of the areas MacQueen does want to see a change is in the play of his team defensively. Sarnia has allowed 19 goals over the past three games. He says that comes from a total team effort with everyone helping out in their own end.
Unfortunately the Sting is a little banged up right now and not 100 per cent healthy.
Veteran defenceman Joe Rogalski will miss his third consecutive game after suffering a concussion against Brampton. He was hit from behind into the end boards. The Brampton player was given a major penalty and game misconduct, but no further suspension.
Overage defenceman Brent Sullivan is listed as probable after missing both games last weekend with whiplash. Rookie forward Nick Latta is also probable after missing two games with a shoulder bruise.
Goalie John Cullen is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. He had to leave Saturday’s game with Windsor in the second period. Also listed as day-to-day are forwards Brett Ritchie and Craig Hottot with some nagging injuries.
Sarnia could also be without their top scorer in Nail Yakupov who was given a match penalty for slew footing in the final minute of the Windsor game. The league needs to review the incident before deciding if a suspension is warranted.
Forward Dean Pawlaczyk will be back after serving a two-game suspension.
The Sting is also home on Saturday night to Sault Ste. Marie before the Christmas Break. After Saturday their next game is not until Dec. 29th when they entertain the Plymouth Whalers.
“Our confidence-level is a little low right now,” says MacQueen. “As a team you can’t afford to go too long with no points because our Conference is so close. We’ve been relatively healthy up until now, but are a little banged up. There’s no good time to run into injuries. We aren’t a deep team and missing three or four guys for a game hurts. But we need to roll on with some hard work and our veterans taking that leadership role.”
– Forward Jason Akeson of the Rangers is currently second in league scoring with 13 goals and 39 assists for 54 points. Shane Prince of Ottawa leads with 54 points on 16 goals and 38 assists. Ryan Murphy of Kitchener is 11th in the league with 44 points while teammate Gabriel Landeskog is 14th overall with 42 points.
Murphy, a defenceman, and Landeskog, a forward, are both expected to be first round picks in the 2011 NHL draft next June. Landeskog will also compete for Sweden at the world junior championships.
– Yakupov and teammate Kale Kerbashian are tied for seventh in league scoring with 46 points each as Yakupov has 21 goals and 25 assists and Kerbashian 19 goals and 27 assists.
– Former Sting Miro Preisinger will be at the world junior championships in Buffalo playing for his native Slovakia. Preisinger played two seasons with the Sting before returning home this season.
– The buffet at Coyote Jack’s Restaurant inside the RBC Centre is a Chef’s Choice. It includes shepherd’s pie, cabbage rolls, home-style chili, soup bar, veggie medley, a selection of salads and the chef’s favourite desserts. For reservations call 519-541-1000, ext. 109.
– Sting Sports will not only be open during games this week but also on Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for your shopping convenience. The store has a number of Sting items for your holiday wish list. One of those gifts is a Sting Gift Card. They come in $10 and $25 denominations. Anyone wishing more information can call 519-542-4494, Ext. 361.
– Sting goalies John Cullen and Brandon Hope will be at the Canadian Store on Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to sign autographs and have photos taken.
– The first coaching casualty in the league took place earlier this week when the Guelph Storm fired head coach Jason Brooks. General manager Mike Kelly will be the interim coach for the rest of the month. Kelly would like to have a new coach in place by the first of the year.
– Sarnia is 4-5-0-1 over their last 10 games and Kitchener 5-2-2-1.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.