It's the third meeting of the season between the Saskatoon Blades and the Red Deer Rebels tonight, and it's the first in Saskatoon.
The two teams have traded wins in the first two games. Saskatoon won the first 2-1, with Red Deer winning the second game 7-1.
The Blades have now won 4 games in a row after completing a home and home sweep of the PA Raiders to enter the 2nd half of the year.
The Rebels are also coming off a win, a 5-0 shutout of Lethbridge earlier this week.
The Rebels are led by the most dangerous draft-eligible player in the WHL in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. However, he missed last game and is considered day to day with injury. It will be interesting to see if he plays in this game. I really hope he does, as it will be the first time I will get to see him play live. Some people have said he compares to a Pavel Datsyuk or Joe Sakic type player. He currently leads the entire WHL in points.
Here are my keys to the game:
For Red Deer
- Protect well against the cycle down low. The Blades top scorers use this area of the ice with the best of them, the Rebels can’t chase too much in their own zone.
- Continue the success on their penalty kill. It’s the 2nd ranked unit in the league and they need to be strong here tonight.
- And play physical against the Blades defense. It’s the 3rd straight game they are playing with 5 defenseman. Take advantage of that.
- Have a quick start. This team has found success early in games since the Christmas break. It makes it much easier to win when scoring first.
- Disrupt Darcy Kuemper. The big man from Saskatoon is dominating WHL goalies in almost all statistical categories. The Blades need traffic and to get in his face tonight.
- And key on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (if he plays). The 17 year old is a game breaking player and the key to the offence. Limiting his damage is key.
The game goes at 7:05 from CUC starting with the pre-game show on 92.9 The Bull at 6:30.