By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers, who have been absent from local radar screens since Nov. 3, are back in action tonight when they face the Kelowna Rockets at Interior Savings Centre.
When last seen in these parts, the Blazers were dropping a 5-2 decision to winger Mitchell (Dirty Harry) Callahan and those same Rockets. Callahan had four third-period points - that's three off the WHL's single-period record, by the way - as the Rockets erased a 2-1 deficit and won for the second time in a row.
Kelowna's winning streak has since reached six games, including a 4-1 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars on Friday night that pulled the Rockets to the .500 mark for the first time all season.
When they arrived in Kamloops 10 days ago, the Rockets were 4-10-0 and the bandwagon was empty. Some folks were even talking about the Rockets not making the playoffs.
Since then, they have shown just what a winning streak can mean in the Western Conference. Because no longer are the Rockets in the conference cellar. No, they now are in seventh place, their 10-10-0 record leaving them a point ahead of the Blazers (9-9-1), who find themselves tied with the Spokane Chiefs (9-8-1) for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot. And the Everett Silvertips (7-7-4) are just one point behind Kamloops and Spokane.
Which makes the rest of November rather important to the Blazers.
Starting tonight, the Blazers will play eight games over the next 15 nights.
The Silvertips follow the Rockets into town for a Sunday game, which actually is the front half of a home-and-home series. The Blazers visit Everett on Friday.
Kamloops then plays the high-flying Winterhawks in Portland on Saturday, before returning home to face the Regina Pats on Nov. 23. The very next night the Blazers are in Spokane. The Chiefs then play here on Nov. 26, with the Blazers playing their fourth game in five nights on Nov. 27 when they face the visiting Cougars.
Around the time the Blazers are in Everett, they hope to have defenceman Josh Caron back in their lineup. He suffered a broken collarbone in the season's second game, on Sept. 25, and hasn't played since. He was back on skates Wednesday for the first time since being hurt.
The Blazers also have three players and head coach Guy Charron preparing to face a Russian team in Game 5 of the six-game Subway Super Series here on Wednesday.
Forwards Brendan Ranford and Chase Schaber, along with defenceman Austin Madaisky, will be part of Team WHL, while Charron will work as an assistant coach under Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska. Huska, the former Blazers player, is an assistant coach with Canada's national junior team.
On Friday, the WHL announced that former Blazers captain Ajay Baines and Shane Gottfriedson, the chief of the Tk'emlups Indian Band, will be Team WHL's honourary captains Wednesday.
JUST NOTES: Game time tonight is 7 o'clock, with Sunday's game to begin at 6 p.m. . . . You can bet the Blazers worked on penalty killing - again! - over the last week. Their penalty killers have given up 12 goals in 33 opportunities over the last five games during which the team's record is 2-3-0. . . . The Blazers raised $5,610.27 in October for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. A lot of that came through a silent auction that featured special edition hockey sticks.
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