KENNEWICK -- The big question for the Tri-Cities Fever when it plays host to the Kent Predators at 1 p.m. today in the Toyota Center is who will be quarterbacking the Predators?
Will it be Charles McCullum, the cat-quick standout who was a thorn in the Fever's side last season?
Or will it be backup Kevin Warner, who stepped in ably last week for McCullum when the starter went down with an injury early in the Predators' 31-30 loss to the visiting Fairbanks Grizzlies?
Fever coach Adam Shackleford isn't taking any chances. His team is preparing for both.
"We're preparing as if McCullum is gonna be there," said Shackleford, whose team enters the game 3-1. "But we're also preparing for his backup. He's not the same player. They may try to spread us out more with the backup.
"You need to be ready for anything anyway," he continued. "We'll know by the first snap what we'll need to do."
Predators coach Keith Evans, whose team is 1-4, is being coy about McCullum's status.
"Charles is coming along," said Evans, a former Fever assistant when the team played in the af2. "He's been rehabbing in the morning."
Evans' team has had some tough luck on the field, losing two games in the final minute to Chicago and Fairbanks.
"We could be 3-2 right now," he said.
As for the Fever, Evans said Tri-Cities is well-coached by Shackleford.
"The guy's got some talent," Evans said. "Turnovers are going to play a big part in this game. Defensively, we don't want to give them too many opportunities for turnovers. I think it's going to be a competitive game."
Off the field, things have been even worse for the Predators, who got new owners last week - the third time since December.
Renton's Jeff Scott, who headed a group that purchased the franchise from West Seattle's Ken Moninski, was forced by the Indoor Football League to sell the team to a group headed by Tom Dowling.
"Thank God Tom has the resources to run the team," said Fever owner Teri Carr, who said had Dowling and his group not stepped up, the IFL probably would have taken over ownership.
Attendance at the Showare Center was bad, and little things such as live statistics weren't happening, said Carr.
Evans said the players were getting paid, "but I won't even address my issues. It's affected us from Day 1. It's not easy but it can't get any worse. I've got to convince these guys that they want to be competitors.
"We're 1-1 in our division," Evans continued. "That's all we can look at now."
Notes: This will be the first of three meetings between the two teams. Kent returns to the Toyota Center on April 30, while the Fever visits Kent on June 12 to close out the regular season. ... There's a good chance that Fever receiver Tre Young, out with an ankle sprain, could be back. ... Defensive backs Dustin Bell and Dennis Rogan are back after sitting out the last game against Omaha. Both were suspended by the league for being ejected after a fight against the Fairbanks Grizzlies. ... The Fever ranks second in the league in scoring at 57.3 a game. Sioux Falls is way out in front with 81 a game. ... Fever QB Houston Lillard ranks second in the IFL with a 107.3 QB rating. He's also second with 20 TD passes. McCullum is fifth in QB rating at 97.0. ... Fever WR Joey Hew Len is tied for second with nine TD catches. ... Former WSU linebacker Greg Trent has 35 tackles for the Predators.