Monday, November 8, 2010

Diving in the OHL? Nah . . .

D Nolan Pratt (Portland, 1991-95) signed a one-year contract with Lukko Rauma (Finland SM-Liiga). He had two goals and nine assists in 46 games with Amur Khabarovsk (Russia KHL) last season.
The Portland Winterhawks open a six-game swing through the East Division tonight in Swift Current.
But let’s be honest. The big game is Friday when they meet the Blades in Saskatoon.
The Blades, who are at home to the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight, go into the week at 13-5-0. They lead the East Division standings by five points over the Moose Jaw Warriors and are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Kootenay Ice (12-4-2).
The Winterhawks, meanwhile, are 14-2-1 and on an eight-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest such run since 1997-98. Portland leads the WHL in points (29), victories (14) and winning percentage (.853).
And let’s not forget that the Blades will be wearing their third jerseys — the denim-look Canadian tuxedo version — on Friday night.
Wait. There’s more! Gene Simmons — yes, that Gene Simmons! — and Shannon Tweed will be in the house. In fact, Simmons, ’tis said, will put on some goaltending equipment and take part in a shootout during the second intermission.
If you’re planning on using the Portland trip as something of a measuring stick, it’s worth noting that the Spokane Chiefs, who are 8-8-1, have returned home from their East Division swing on which they went 3-2-1.
The Tri-City Americans, who are 11-5-2, finished their trip on Oct. 13 and went 3-3-0.
F Ty Rattie and F Sven Bartschi of the Winterhawks are on 11-game point streaks as the trip starts. Rattie has 22 points, including eight goals, during his run, while Bartschi has 20 points, with 11 of them goals. . . . The Portland record for longest point streak is held by D Jim Benning, who went 45 games in 1980-81.
There also are a couple of intriguing matchups this week that feature the Red Deer Rebels.
The Rebels (12-6-1) are in Everett tonight for a game against the Silvertips (6-6-4). It was on July 26 when these teams surprised observers by making a one-for-one deal involving 19-year-old forwards. Landon Ferraro moved to Everett, with Byron Froese going to Red Deer.
Going into tonight’s game, Froese has 28 points, including 10 goals, and is a minus-5 in 19 games, while Ferraro, who is Everett’s captain, has 13 points, five of them goals, and is plus-3 in 16 games.
On Wednesday night, the Rebels will meet the Giants (11-7-2) in Vancouver.
Last season, on Sept. 29, the Rebels acquired F Andrej Kudrna from the Giants for F Cass Mappin. Kudrna has 26 points, 13 of them goals, in 19 games with Red Deer. Mappin no longer is with Vancouver.
On Dec. 10, Vancouver dealt Mappin, D Mitch Spooner and F Mikael Jung to the Regina Pats for G Derek Tendler, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft and a first-round selection in the 2010 import draft.
The U.S. Division is the only one in the WHL that can boast of having all of its teams with at least a .500 winning percentage.
But is that a mirage?
A check of the numbers reveals that three of the five teams actually have lost more games than they have won.
The Seattle Thunderbirds are 6-4-5 in the standings, but have lost nine of 15 games.
The Spokane Chiefs are 8-8-1, which, another way, is 8-9.
The Everett Silvertips are 6-6-4, which could be transposed to 6-10.
If you look at the WHL standings, you will discover that 16 of the 22 teams have winning percentages of .500 or better.
Which, of course, makes no sense whatsoever.
While watching a shootout in an NHL game the other night, I noticed, again, lots of bouncing pucks and a few players having problems controlling the puck.
Some of the problems have to be attributed to the ice, which is scraped but not flooded prior to a shootout.
Which is when I had this thought . . .
Why not hold the shootout before the game? You know . . . just in case.
If the shootout is held before the game, the ice will be clean and fast. There won’t be any ruts. The puck should move better.
Hold the shootout before the game and everyone will know who is going to get the extra point should the game be tied after overtime.
Who knows?
It might make teams play ever harder than they do now.
Or not.
The Kamloops Blazers have assigned F Lyndon Martell, 17, to the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings. Martell was listed by the Blazers last season. He had one assist in eight games with Kamloops, but was a healthy scratch for seven of the last eight games. . . . As expected, F Mitchell (Dirty Harry) Callahan of the Kelowna Rockets is the WHL’s player of the week. He had 12 points, including five goals, in four games as the Rockets went 4-0-0, beating all four of their B.C. Division opponents. Callahan, 19, now has 22 points in 18 games. . . . The WHL has nominated Calvin Pickard of the Seattle Thunderbirds as the CHL’s goaltender of the week. He went 1-1-1 with a 1.63 GAA and a .962 save percentage. . . . The Kootenay Ice (12-4-2), tied for the Eastern Conference with the Saskatoon Blades, are off until Thursday when they meet the host Calgary Hitmen, who have lost nine in a row. The Ice remains without F Brendan Hurley (hand, 4-6 weeks), D James Martin (facial injury, 2-4 weeks) and F Drew Czerwonka (shoulder, 1-2 weeks). D Hayden Rintoul (shoulder) is listed as day-to-day. . . . The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers fired Greg Gilbert as head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms on Monday. John Paddock (Brandon, 1972-74), the Flyers’ assistant GM, was named interim head coach. Adirondack was off to a 2-10-1 start. Paddock, 56, coached the Phantoms in 2008-09 when they went 43-30-7.
There is nothing better in sports than a good rivalry.
Such is the case in the OHL when the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights get together.
They played Sunday, with the host Rangers winning 6-5.
After the game, Steve Spott, Kitchener’s GM and head coach, told Jeff Hicks of the Waterloo Region Record: "The only thing missing tonight was a swimming pool.”
Neate Sager, over at Yahoo! Sports, has rounded things up rather nicely and it’s all right here.
(By the way, I absolutely love those Kitchener commemorative Remembrance Day jerseys. Those are terrific!)
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