Monday, February 2, 2015

WHL's playoff picture . . . No one hotter than Bjorkstrand . . . Zamboni driver did what?

The WHL’s regular season is winding down. Two teams, Portland and Prince George, have fewer than 20 games remaining. So let’s take a look at the playoff picture as it is right now . . . Keep in mind that the top three teams from each of the four divisions qualify for the playoffs. Also getting in are two wild-card teams in each conference — the two teams with the most points, regardless of division. . . . Remember, too, that it is awfully tough to gain ground when some games actually are worth three points. So teams that are six or eight points out of the playoffs at this point really have their work cut out to make up that much ground in a 20-game period.
            PTS    GR
Brandon        79    21
Regina        60    22
Swift Current    51    21
Medicine Hat    73    22
Calgary        63    21
Red Deer        62    22
Kootenay        55    20
Edmonton        54    20
Moose Jaw        44    22
Prince Albert    43    22
THE MATCHUPS, if the playoffs opened tonight:
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Medicine Hat vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Calgary vs. Red Deer
NOTES: If Moose Jaw and/or Prince Albert are to make the playoffs, it appears they will have to catch Swift Current and get in as the East Division’s third-place team. . . . Moose Jaw is seven points behind third-place Swift Current and Prince Albert is eight points back. Moose Jaw is 10 points out of a wild-card spot. . . . The Warriors are at home to Prince Albert on Wednesday and Spokane on Friday. Moose Jaw then heads out on a seven-game road trip as the Saskatchewan women’s curling championship takes over Mosaic Place. . . . Red Deer, which slid into third in the Central Division while enjoying a six-game homestand, is off to B.C. for a three-game swing that opens Wednesday in Kamloops.
B.C. Division
            PTS    GR
Kelowna        82    21
Victoria        60    20
Kamloops        46    20
Everett        66    22
Portland        65    19
Seattle        56    22
Spokane        52    23
Tri-City        51    21
Vancouver        43    21
Prince George    42    19
THE MATCHUPS, if the playoffs opened tonight:
Kelowna vs. Tri-City
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Kamloops
Portland vs. Seattle
NOTES: Vancouver and Prince George are sliding out of the wild-card race, but are involved in a tight race for third place in the B.C. Division. . . . Prince George, which is 0-10-2 in its last 12 games, is at home to Edmonton on Friday and Saturday, then will play seven of eight on the road. The Canada Winter Games are in Prince George from Feb. 21 to March 1. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province takes a look at the Vancouver Giants’ playoff chances right here.

F Juraj Šimek (Brandon, 2006-07) has signed for the rest of this season with Lugano (Switzerland, NL A) after asking for his release from TPS Turku (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, NL A), he had six goals and seven assists in 33 games. In 15 games with TPS, he had two goals and six assists. . . .
F Malte Strömwall (Tri-City, 2011-13) has been recalled by Luleå (Sweden, SHL) from loan to Asplöven Haparanda (Sweden, Allsvenskan) and loaned to HV71 Jönköping (Sweden, SHL). This season, with the Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL), he had two goals in 21 games. In 14 games with Luleå, he had one goal and one assist. He had one goal in four games with Asplöven.

D Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels, who suffered a skate cut to one leg on Saturday, may not miss any action. Fleury needed eight stitches after cutting himself with his own skate blade during the first period; he didn’t return. The Rebels play in Kamloops on Wednesday. . . .
F Jackson Houck of the Vancouver Giants is ill and didn’t practise on Monday. He had missed Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Kamloops Blazers. . . . The Giants also are without F Matt Bellerive, who is ill. . . .
No one was hotter in January than Portland Winterhawks F Oliver Bjorkstrand. Since returning from the WJC, where he played for Denmark, Bjorkstrand has put up 30 points, including 14 goals, in 12 games. He now has 70 points, including 35 goals, in 40 games, leaving him tied for third in the WHL scoring race. . . . F Nic Petan, who plays on a line with Bjorkstrand, has 18 points, 14 of them assists, in nine games after returning from the WJC, where he played for Canada. . . . The Winterhawks visit the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., on Friday and play in Everett on Sunday. . . .
Bjorkstrand is tied with F Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets, each with 70 points. They trail F Trevor Cox of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who has 85 points, and Tigers F Cole Sanford, who has 78. . . . Sanford and F Rourke Chartier of Kelowna lead the WHL in goals (41). Cox is No. 1 in assists (63). . . .
Jordan Papirny of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Jackson Whistle of the Kelowna Rockets lead WHL goaltenders in victories, each with 30. . . . Taran Kozun of the Seattle Thunderbirds has the top GAA (2.34), with Whistle second (2.46). . . . The top save percentage (.927) belongs to Portland’s Adin Hill, with Tri-City’s Eric Comrie next, at .921. . . . Landon Bow of Swift Current and Tri-City’s Evan Sarthou lead in shutouts, each with six. . . . 
The junior B Extreme Hockey Regina Capitals and Traveland RV Storm, who play in the Prairie Junior Hockey League, will play a doubleheader this weekend that is being called the Pankewich-Neumann Memorial Classic. The Saturday-Sunday games are being used as a fund-raiser for the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency. . . . They’ll play Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at the Pilot Butte Recreation Centre and Sunday, 2:15 p.m., at the Al Ritchie Arena in Regina. . . .
Archie Ingersoll of the Grand Forks Herald has more right here on the Zamboni driver from Fargo, N.D., who has been charged with DUI. It turns out he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.30, well over the 0.08 legal limit.

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