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Leader-Post article (Road trip crucial for the Warriors)

February 11 2010 at 7:20 AM
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N. W. Bruin  (Login NW_Bruin_GM)

Road trip crucial for the Warriors

By Greg Harder, The Leader-Post

February 11, 2010 5:12 AM

The Moose Jaw Warriors need to become the Road Warriors.

Moose Jaw played the first of seven straight away games on Tuesday, dropping a 5-2 WHL decision to the host Kootenay Ice. The following night, the Warriors visited the Spokane Chiefs to open a five-game tour of the U.S. Division which concludes next Tuesday against the Tri-City Americans.

Moose Jaw is slated to return home for three days off next week, then hit the road again for a meeting with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Following that game, the Warriors begin a four-game homestand.

"It's definitely going to be the biggest stretch in our season," Moose Jaw defenceman Ryan Stanton told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald, "and it's going to go a long way to determining what the future has in store for us."

Tuesday's setback in Cranbrook, B.C. was their seventh straight road loss.

"Our mentality is that people are starting to write us off already," added Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak. "They view this trip as a big dagger and we view this trip as an opportunity to get separation.

"It's a chance to get out on the road and come together as a team. We could put ourselves in a real good position with a four-game homestand at the end of the month or you're scratching and clawing to keep yourself in it."

Heading into Wednesday's WHL slate, the Warriors had possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They were one point behind the Prince Albert Raiders, one ahead of the Swift Current Broncos and five in front of the Regina Pats.

The stakes are high for each of those teams heading down the stretch. With little margin for error, the pressure mounts after every loss.

"I know it has been on all our minds," Broncos forward Michael Stickland told the Prairie Post. "You know, we're thinking, 'Are we going to be in or are we going to be out?' I think we've been putting too much time and thought into that and it has been taking away from our games that we still have to play before the playoffs. We're scared to lose, so in turn, maybe we're running around a little bit and not playing the systems the way we're supposed to be. Right now, we have to have a little desperation. We're a team that really has nothing to lose at this point. We're already sitting out of a playoff spot, but we can only go up from here. Desperation, I think, is the key."

- - -

The goaltending carousel continues to spin for the NHL's Minnesota Wild.

Starter Niklas Backstrom returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing six games while backup Josh Harding sat out with a lingering hip injury that has bothered him off and on for much of the season. Former Saskatoon Blade Anton Khudobin has been filling in, along with fellow minor-league callup Wade Dubielewicz, a native of Kerrobert.

That's a lot of goalies walking around the dressing room -- or, in this case, limping.

"Hards was on the trainer's table and then Khuby and Dubie walked in there," defenceman Nick Schultz of Strasbourg told the Star Tribune.

"It was like they were having a little meeting in there. You don't see that very often -- three weirdoes like that."

"This coming from the weirdest guy on the team," quipped Harding, a native of Regina. "We have our own little clan."

Khudobin is expected to remain with the Wild for the next two games until the start of the Olympic break, at which time Backstrom will join Team Finland.

It's a timely break for Harding, who's expected to rest until after the 16-day Olympic hiatus. Minnesota returns to action March 3 in Calgary against the Flames.

(Centre Ice appears Thursdays.)

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

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