Pictured is Slater Koekkoek of the Windsor Spitfires. He will not be in action tonight and has been flown to Florida to meet with the NHL team doctor to examine his shoulder. This does not sound promising for the Spits as they continue their climb out of the dredges of the Western Conference standings.
Owen Sound at Kingston
The Owen Sound Attack (26-12-1-3) are at the #8 spot in the BMO CHL rankings, and are 2nd in the Western Conference - seeded 3rd. If the playoffs were to start tonight, the Attack would be hosting the Plymouth Whalers, who are only 6 points behind them in the standings. The Attack got some good news from Ottawa on Wednesday when they were informed that Cody Ceci would be returning from the Ottawa Senators training camp. Ceci and forward Steven Janes were acquired in a trade from the 67s on January 7th. Ceci is expected to be in the lineup when the Attack invade Kingston for the rematch with the Frontenacs. Last Saturday night, the Attack humbled the young Fronts 7-0, in Owen Sound. The outcome in this one was never in doubt, as the Attack were the better team in every aspect of the game. Team Canada goaltender, Jordan Binnington recorded the shutout. Of interest is that the Attack lead the OHL in penalty minutes, with 804, which is nearly 100 mins more than any other team, and more than 200 minutes more than their opponent tonight.
The Kingston Frontenacs (20-20-2-0) have fallen to the .500 mark, and sit 8th in the Eastern Conference. They are 11 points ahead of the surging Peterborough Petes. Ryan Kujawinski, who was considered for the OHL player of the week, two weeks ago, has been one of the only bright spots for the Fronts of late. Linemates, Henri Ikonen, and Sam Povorozniouk have been producing, offensively, as well. The Fronts were outscored 19-3 last weekend, and are 3-6-1-0 in their last 10 games. Look for Mike Morrison to rebound this weekend in a big way.
Recently acquired goaltender Lucas Peressini may be called up this weekend, despite being told he would remain with his Newmarket Hurricanes Jr. A team for the rest of the season, after Kingston picked him recently from the Saginaw Spirit's protected list. The 17 year old netminder, who was drafted by Saginaw, has a 2.15 GAA and .925 save %age. He has shut out Kingston's Jr A team (the Voyageurs) three times in his brief career, perhaps providing some motivation for the trade with the Spirit, for a 4th round draft pick.
My prediction Owen Sound 4 at Kingston 3
Belleville at Niagara
The Belleville Bulls (24-12-3-2) are playing solid hockey of late, and really improved at the trade deadline. The Bulls picked up some much needed offense in Alan Quine (from the Petes) and Tyler Graovac (from the 67s). Combined with the return of Malcolm Subban in goal, the Bulls are my choice to finish first in the Eastern Conference. They are first in the East Division, and 3 points behind the Colts for first in the Conference right now.
The Bulls have won three straight, over the Frontenacs, Spitfires, and Greyhounds, and are 6-3-0-1 in their last 10.
The Ice Dogs (23-18-1-2) have slipped a little in the Eastern Conference. They have lost their last 2, and are 3-6-1-0 in their last 10. The Dogs have just received some positive news from the NHL, as both Brett Ritchie (Stars) and Ryan Strome (Islanders) have been returned to St. Catharines in time for this Sportsnet nationally televised game tonight. This changes everything for the Dogs. Ritchie and Strome will add some much needed offense to the Ice Dogs. Niagara is 6-3-0-1 over their last 10 games at home.
My prediction Belleville 3 at Niagara 4
Mississauga at Plymouth
The Steelheads were hooked last night at Windsor by a close score of 2-1. Tyson Teichmann was the goalie of record in the loss – his record now stands at 8-6-0-1. Look for Martin to bring renewed energy to the team as he will be the start tonight. Babintsev scored the lone goal late in the third period to make the score more respectable. They only managed 18 shots on goal vs. Windsor’s 33 shots. The Steelheads are 2 points ahead of eighth place Kingston.
The Whalers are jammed into the sixth spot of the Western Conference. They are 3 points behind Guelph and a slim 1 point ahead of the surging Greyhounds. They have won 2 in a row and 7 of their last 10 games. Newly acquired Vincent Trocheck has 5 assists in his 2 games with his new team.
My prediction Mississauga 1 Plymouth 4
Erie at Sarnia
Erie continues their quest to get out of the basement of the OHL. They have won 5 of their last 10 games and have looked better since the new Coach joined the ranks. Stephen Harper should be energized from his appearance at the CHL Top Prospects game in Halifax. After this contest, the squad will venture back into US soil to battle against the Spirit and then another trip to Plymouth (played there last Saturday night).
Sarnia will be without their top gun - Galchenyuk – look for him in a Canadiens jersey as they open the NHL season. They have won their last 6 games and are finding ways to replace his offence. Super rookie Goldobin has been racking up the points (40) and Charles Sarault continues to hover the near the top of the league scoring race (51 assists – 66 points).
My prediction Erie 3 Sarnia 5
Sault Ste Marie at Saginaw
After winning successive 3 games at home, the Greyhounds will venture on the road for their next three games. Last weekend they would hand defeats to the #1 ranked team in the league 4-2(Knights) as well as handing Mississauga and Sarnia identical 3-1 losses. Darnell Nurse returns to the lineup after a visit to Halifax to participate in the Home Hardware Prospects Game (where he had a fight). Matt Murray collected honors for his solid goaltending last weekend. His January record is 4-1 with a 2.14 GAA and a .917 save %.
Saginaw is in eighth place in the Western Conference a full 4 points behind the streaking Greyhounds. The Spirit have won 5 in a row and 7 of their last 10 games. Their last action was a home 5-2 victory over the top ranked London Knights on Sunday night. In that game Garret Ross would tally 2 goals and an assist – he has 24 goals and 25 assists in 38 games this season. Eric Locke is the team leader in points with 26 goals and 26 assists in 44 games played. After this game, the Spirit will have a home / home series with the Erie Otters.
My prediction Sault Ste Marie 3 Saginaw 4 (OT)
Brampton at Kitchener
The Battalion have been embroiled in mediocrity this calendar year. The have a record of 4-4-0-2 in their last 10 games. Before their slim 2-1 victory on Sunday over the road-weary Sudbury Wolves, the team dropped games to Plymouth (4-2) and also handed an easy one to Windsor (3-0). Blake Clarke leads the team in points and continues to put up fabulous numbers in his rookie season – 15 goals and 21 assists. Newly acquired Menard is being looked to for some production as well (1 assist in 3 games with the Battalion so far).
The Rangers are ready to roll now with almost all their players back from NHL camps and Coach Spott realigned to this time zone. Puempel is scheduled to play 2 of the Rangers 3 games this weekend and will be in tonight’s lineup. He has had a nagging shoulder injury this season. The 2 new players for the Rangers are atop the team in points – Josh Leivo with 20 goals and 47 points, Frank Corrado has 24 assists and 30 points this year. Kitchener is in fourth place in the Western Conference with 54 points. They have gathered point in 4 straight games. They will make a quick road trip to Barrie Saturday night and then Sudbury on Sunday afternoon to complete their weekend schedule.
My prediction Brampton 2 Kitchener 4
Windsor at London
The reformatted Spits have been playing more aggressive hockey and the results are showing up on the scoreboard. Last weekend they won 2 in a row – a 3-1 victory at Oshawa on Thursday and then eeked out a 2-1 victory at home vs. the Steelheads. They are still 4 points out of a playoff spot but have a record of 3-0-0-1 in their past 4 games. Their total of 719 is the second most penalty minutes in the league (OS with 804).
London looks to get out of their 2 game losing streak with this home contest. The Knights continue to enjoy a healthy lead on the rest of the pack with a 17 point lead over the Owen Sound Attack. Domi and Horvat both saw in action in the recent Prospects Game in Halifax. Seth Griffith leads the team, and the league with 29 goals and 72 points. He is 5 points ahead of Nick Cousins, 6 points ahead of Charles Sarault and 10 points ahead of Ryan Strome.
My prediction Windsor 2 London 5
Guelph at Ottawa
The Guelph Storm (24-14-1-4) are a team on the rise. They have 4 players drafted in the first 3 rounds of last year's NHL draft, and have 4 more who have the potential to be drafted in the first 3 of this year's draft. They have solid goaltending, in Leaf's prospect, Garret Sparks, and great coaching, in Scott Walker.
Last night, they beat the 19th place team in the OHL, the Petes, in Peterborough, by the score of 5-3. Guelph had a 5-1 lead going into the third, but the Petes showed some resilience with 2 goals in the third. Tonight, they face the 20th and last place team in the league, at Scotiabank Place in Kanata.
The Ottawa 67s (12-30-0-3) are in unfamiliar territory, that is the basement of the OHL. They are 4 points behind 9th place Peterborough, and 15 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are in full "rebuild" mode, but they believe that they have received good value for recently traded stars. Newcomers, Joseph Blandisi, and Jacob Middleton will undoubtedly get lots more ice time with the 67s. Sean Monahan, (4th in the recent 2013 NHL draft rankings, for North American skaters) leads the team, with 16 goals and 49 points. Newcomer, Sergey Kuptsov was ranked 131st in the same rankings.
Ottawa may have difficulty competing for wins for the rest of this season. They will need to score by committee, and play a tight checking style to eke out wins.
My prediction Guelph 5 at Ottawa 3
Barrie at Sudbury
The Barrie Colts (28-13-0-1) are leading the Eastern Conference of the OHL. Their leader, Mark Sheifele, appears to have made the Winnipeg Jets, and will leave a huge hole in the lineup, if he remains with the Jets for the rest of the season, which is entirely possible. The Colts have plenty of veteran talent to rely on for offense, however, in Andreas Athanasiou, Stephen Beyers, and newly acquired Mitchell Theoret.
The Colts have some high-end 17 year old talent, as well, as 4 players are ranked amongst North American players eligible for the 2013 NHL entry draft. Erik Bradford (126th), Zach Hall (128th), Michael Webster (157th), and Alex Fontinos (29th amongst goalies) could all be drafted this year.
Last night Erik Bradford scored the shootout winner, in the 4th round, to give the Colts the win, 3-2, over the Oshawa Generals. The overtime period proved to be exciting, as the visiting Generals outshot Barrie 6-4, 39-31 overall. Mathias Niederberger recorded his 23rd victory of the season in this one.
The Sudbury Wolves (20-17-2-5) are one of the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, as they are 7-1-2-0 in their last 10. They have made up a lot of ground in the East, and are sitting in 5th in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps not surprisingly then, the Wolves had 5 players named in the NHL Central Scouting Services' mid term scouting report for North American players. Jeff Corbett (66th), Nick Baptiste (103rd), Brody Silk (105th), and Dominik Kubalik (146th) will keep NHL scouts heading north to Sudbury for the rest of the season. Despite being passed over twice before by the NHL, Franky Palazzese is ranked 14th amongst North American goalkeepers.
My prediction Barrie 3 at Sudbury 4