The Langley Rivermen can make it four straight wins tonight but they’ll be in for a tough test in their return to the LEC with a surging Prince George Spruce Kings team in town.
The 12-5-1-1 Rivermen still lead the Mainland division and are coming off a 4-3 win in Chilliwack Wednesday night getting some retribution for a shutout loss at home to the Chiefs a couple weeks earlier. Langley will be looking for further revenge tonight after a loss to Prince George in October. The Spruce Kings are 11-7-1-1 and just two points back of the Riv for first place although Langley does hold a game in hand. Despite being without two of their top scorers in Jake LeBrun and Bryant Christian as well as goalie Jesse Jenks (at the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia), the Spruce Kings hold the league’s longest current win streak at four games.
The Rivermen will once again be without defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy who is representing team Canada West along with Jenks. Austin Azurdia is serving the second of his two-game suspension tonight but after Jamie Vlanich had a solid debut with Will Cook and James Robinson expect that trio to stick together. Austen Bietenbeck made his return to the Riv lineup Wednesday night on the blue line while Travis Maxwell played as a fourth line forward. Evan Anderson may be able to begin skating soon but remains out with a lower body injury.
While the Riv’s power play failed to connect Wednesday night going 0/3, Langley’s man advantage has seen a big improvement of late going 50% in each of the previous two games. That being said, however, the Riv are still in 13th in the BCHL on the man advantage which is clicking at just 15.2%, but at home that has improved now to 19.1%, middle of the pack in 8th. The Spruce Kings are no better with the power play though connecting just 13% of the time.
The Rivermen’s Penalty Kill has kept them in many games this season and remains one of the league’s best at 86.1% overall, 89.1% at the LEC, second only to the Penticton Vees on home ice.
The Spruce Kings took the first meeting of the season between the two with a 3-1 win at the Langley Events Centre on October 20th. Jenks was very solid in net for Prince George stopping 26 of 27 Langley shots and earning the game’s third star. After falling behind 2-0 in the first, Jakob Reichert got the Riv on the board in the third on the power play but the Spruce Kings added a late tally for the two goal victory.
Leading the season series 1-0, the Spruce Kings and Rivermen play each other six more times this regular season after tonight. Last year the two clubs played each other a whopping nine times with Langley winning the season series 5-3-0-1.
Start Strong: If the Rivermen replicate the start of the game they had in Chilliwack on Wednesday they should be just fine. But coming out of the gate fast has been an issue for the Riv all season.
Stay Mentally Strong: The Spruce Kings have a number of so-called agitators that love to get under the skin of their opponents. In their last meeting the Rivermen took a number of undisciplined penalties and while the penalty kill was strong they spent too much time in the box. The Riv must remain focused and keep their feet moving.
Outshoot the Opponent: The Spruce Kings love to shoot the puck. They have badly outshot their opponents many times so far this season and last night’s 3-2 win in Surrey was no exception. Alex Murray will be playing his second game in as many nights in goal with Jenks away from the team so firing early and often on him would be a big plus.