With the record East Division teams have mustered during their trek through the U.S. Division this season, they should be thankful they only have to cross the border every other year.
Regina (3-2), Brandon (1-4) and Swift Current (0-5) had little success against Everett, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Tri-City.
Now, Saskakoon is trying to salvage its trip after starting 0-3 against Everett, Seattle and Portland.
The Blades (10-17-1-2) will try to end a three-game slide tonight when they visit the Americans (15-12-1-2) at Toyota Center.
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“For the most part, the teams we have played have four lines and are very well balanced,” said first-year Blades coach Dave Struch. “They have a high skill level, are very structured, and the amount of hard work they put in they are hard to play against. We have gone up against three very good teams. Our job is to win. We have to go out and get the next one.”
The Americans, coming off a big shootout win over rival Spokane on Saturday, are 3-0 against the East this season.
Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie said he sees a difference between the East teams and those from the highly competitive U.S. Division.
“They like to grind it out a little more,” Comrie said. “They have more controlled breakouts, getting everyone in place, whereas in the U.S. we try to get things going. I feel we like to push the pace a little more.”
Struch said his team has played well when the teams are at even strength during the road trip, but that special teams have been ... not so special.
“We have had a lot of positives with our game 5-on-5,” Struch said. “But our discipline has cost us a couple of wins. That is an issue we have to improve on. Five-on-5 gives us energy and momentum.”
While the Blades rank first in the league on the power play — 29.3 percent — their penalty kill ranks 20th (71.9 percent).
They have given up 17 goals in their last three games — 11 on the man advantage.
“Our power play has been doing pretty good, but having to kill penalties you use all your energy,” Struch said. “Our goal is to play 5-on-5 and match our opponent’s work ethic.”
Tonight’s game brings former Tri-City goalie Troy Trombley back to Toyota Center.
Trombley and Luke Lee-Knight manned the net last season after Comrie was shelved for the remainder of the season in January with a hip injury.
Struch would not name today’s starter Monday night.
It will either be Trombley (3-6-0-1, 4.30 GAA, .883 save percentage) or Alex Moodie (7-11-1-1, 3.92, .902).
“It’s going to be exciting to see him again and see if he gets the start,” Comrie said of Trombley. “He is a great guy and a good goalie.”
Note: Team Canada released its camp roster for the upcoming World Junior Championship on Monday, and it did not include Comrie (2.47 GAA, .925 save percentage).
“It’s a little disappointing,” Comrie said. “I just move forward now. I’m fortunate to have another opportunity next year. I know that Canada was confident in their picks. I have to be happy for them, too.”
Team Canada invited just two goalies to camp — Zachary Fucale of Halifax (QMJHL) and Jake Paterson of Saginaw (OHL).
Nine WHL players were selected to the camp: Derrick Pouliot, Nic Petan and Taylor Leier of Portland; Griffin Reinhart and Curtis Lazar of Edmonton; Josh Morrissey of Prince Albert; Damon Severson of Kelowna; Sam Reinhart of Kootenay and Hunter Shinkaruk of Medicine Hat.
The camp includes eight defensemen, 15 forwards and two goalies. Team Canada must finalize their 22-player roster by Dec. 25.
The WJC will be played in Malmö, Sweden, Dec. 26-Jan. 5.