|Brogan O'Brien (15) and the Spruce Kings are in Duncan|
to take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals tonight
The Prince George Spruce Kings face the Cowichan Valley Capitals under the "Big Stick" in Duncan tonight at 7pm. After coming up just short last night in a 6-5 loss to the Victoria Grizzlies, the Spruce Kings know that they will have to be even better than they were one game ago if they want to pick up their own points in the quest to hold down a top spot in the Mainland Division and also lock up a playoff spot.
It would be safe to say that right now the coaching staff and even the players are more worried about finding points against Island division teams with two more Island based teams to face this weekend. The record is not the greatest and is becoming a bit of a concern for the Spruce Kings who have sixteen games remaining in the regular season. The Spruce Kings have two wins in seven games, including one against the Capitals back on October 26th in Prince George.
"If we're going to go anywhere in (the post-season), we have to win games against these teams." said head coach, Dave Dupas. "It's just a matter of us getting back to playing the way we played early and the way we know that we can. We have to defend much harder, much better and if we do that we're in every game and if we don't do that, we're just another team that can lose to anybody on any given night."
The trend in the Island Division team is to send in a physical forecheck looking to force a turnover. A lot of the times those turnovers come from the secondary support on the aggressive forecheck with another player getting a stick or body part in the lane to break up the break out play. The Spruce Kings saw that first hand and there should be no expectations not to see that again tonight. In fact the expectation is to see an elevated physical style of forecheck from another hard working team that will more closely resemble the Alberni Valley Bulldogs style from a couple of weekends ago.
The Capitals play a close checking game but are careful not to cross the line and draw too many penalties. Shorthanded a total of 187 times this season, Cowichan Valley has a very similar record on the penalty kill as Prince George operating at a 79.14% efficiency while the Spruce Kings are slightly better at 80.84% on 164 penalty kills. Where Prince George will have to be careful is taking undisciplined penalties with the Capitals averaging one goal in every five powerplay chances.
If the Spruce Kings can play their game with a few adjustments, they have shown more offensive potential through the regular season having outscored their opposition by 28 goals while the Capitals are a -33. In this case it does look like defense will be the edge that Prince George will need to use to their advantage and that will start from the goaltender out. After getting a few games rest, Jesse Jenks is set to get the start and looking forward to playing against what could be considered his hometown team.
"I played minor hockey here since I was four years old and I grew up watching the Capitals," explains Jenks who is from Crofton, BC. "I live just ten minutes from the rink and there are going to be lots of family and friends in the building watching us play tonight. It's going to be fun to get to play in front of everyone that hasn't seen me play in awhile. I know my family is proud of me and will be cheering me and us on."
In his rookie year, the eighteen year old has caught the eyes, hearts and imagination of many and for the Spruce Kings coaching staff it was an easy decision to slot Jenks in for this start.
"He has played well all season long," said Spruce Kings communications director, Ron Gallo. "He has played for Team Canada and he has matured as a goaltender in style and demeanor. He has played in some very tough situations against some very tough teams and in some very stressful circumstances. In all of them he has shown that he is a very capable goaltender and thrives on all of that."
A win tonight will secure a playoff spot for the Prince George Spruce Kings who are more worried about picking up a win and parlaying that into a string of points through a tough stretch of the schedule. In the final sixteen games of the season, the Spruce Kings will see Langley five times, Coquitlam four times and they still have four more games against Island Division teams beginning with this one tonight versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 7pm.
The game will be broadcast live online with the pay-per-view feed available through Fasthockey.com and a free audio only webcast on the Spruce Kings Mixlr Channel beginning with a pregame show at 6:40pm. Following the game, the Spruce Kings will return to Nanaimo where they will wrap up their weekend road trip with a matinee affair at 2pm Sunday versus the Nanaimo Clippers.