Busy Blades ready to log some ice time
By Cory Wolfe, The StarPhoenix
October 30, 2009 10:27 AM
The Saskatoon Blades celebrated Halloween early with a Thursday afternoon costume party at Credit Union Centre.
Charles Inglis showed up for practice in diver's attire, his flippers loudly smacking the concrete floor.
Curtis Hamilton went back in time to become a 1970s disco king.
And Stefan Elliott resembled a rotund tourist in Bermuda shorts.
The Blades' dress code returns to normal tonight and they'll be sporting hockey uniforms for seven of the next nine nights. First up is this evening's date with the Edmonton Oil Kings (7-8-0-2), who posted a 4-2 victory during their last visit Sept. 25.
"That's a lot of games in a short amount of time," conceded Hamilton. "We just have to make sure that we play 60 minutes every night and then get some rest and also make sure that we're eating well. Taking care of ourselves is going to be really important."
The Blades (10-3-0-2) sit atop the WHL's East Division, but they'll have their mettle tested during the upcoming stretch. Fortunately, the team is relatively healthy. The only player out of the lineup is winger Randy McNaught, who has three games remaining on his five-game suspension for an elbowing infraction last week in Swift Current.
"The team is playing well and playing with confidence," said Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken. "Everybody has stepped up and contributed.
"We've got some bumps and bruises, but if we can get through this stretch we'll get some time to focus on issues such as team play and also do some video."
Even though teaching time will be limited for the foreseeable future, the Blades seem to have taken recent lessons to heart. They've unleashed a formidable forecheck of late and they've also been tough to play against in their own zone. Furthermore, steady play from goaltenders Adam Morrison and Steven Stanford has helped Saskatoon establish the league's best goals-against average, at 2.24.
"We've had stretches where we haven't played as much, so the practice time was there," said defenceman Teigan Zahn. "Now it's all about focusing on the games that we have. Yeah, practices aren't going to be there but we have to be able to realize if we're doing something wrong in a game and fix it."
Following tonight's game, the Blades play seven straight games against East Division opponents. They are two points up on Moose Jaw (10-5-0-0) and Brandon (9-6-0-2). Swift Current (9-6-0-1) is three points back of the Blades.
"With the teams that we're playing, we can prove that we're the top team in the league and that we want to separate ourselves from the Moose Jaws and the Swift Currents that are chasing us right now," said Zahn.
"It's going to be a good test and we're looking forward to it."
BLADE BITS: Hamilton and Elliott have been named to Team WHL's roster for the Subway Super Series against Russia. They'll play the Nov. 26 game in Hamilton's hometown of Kelowna, B.C. Elliott hails from North Vancouver. "It speaks volumes for their commitment and their character," said Molleken. "They've both participated in different Hockey Canada events and it's a real privilege for them to be selected. They both deserve this opportunity and it's part of the process in maybe getting invited to world juniors." Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins is the Team WHL benchboss for the series and he'll also call the shots for Team Canada at the world junior tournament, which begins Dec. 26 in Saskatoon and Regina.
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The Saskatoon Blades face a grueling stretch of seven games in nine nights:
- Tonight: Home vs. Edmonton
- Saturday: At Moose Jaw
- Sunday: At Swift Current
- Tuesday: Home vs. Moose Jaw
- Wednesday: Home vs. Swift Current
- Nov. 6: At Regina
- Nov. 7: Home vs. Prince Albert
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