Smokies host Spruce Kings

The Trail Smoke Eaters face-off against the Prince George Spruce Kings tonight with a two-game unbeaten streak.

The Trail Smoke Eaters face-off against the Prince George Spruce Kings tonight with a two-game unbeaten streak on the line and an undefeated Smoke Eater coach.

It was a good start for new Trail coach Nick Deschenes, as the Smokies picked up 3-of-4 points last weekend, with a convincing 5-1 victory over Interior-division leaders West Kelowna Warriors and a 4-4 tie with the Island division’s second seed, Victoria Grizzlies, Friday night.

“It’s always tough when things get shaken up the way they do, and there’s a coaching change, but I thought for the most part the boys responded really well,” said Deschenes.

The former coach of the KIJHL’s Grand Forks Border Bruins was behind the bench for his first two games after replacing Bill Birks who was let go two weeks ago. While it is Deschenes first coaching tenure at the Junior A level, the players and coach seem to be on the same page as the team responded by counting its first point in 10 games versus the Grizz Friday night and then over-ran the Warriors Saturday.

“I thought we prepared very well for both teams we played last weekend, and it’s going to be the same procedure; we’re going to go over their forecheck, over the D-zone coverage, neutral-zone play, specialty teams,” said Deschenes. “As a group I was actually very pleased that we made some corrections prior to the games, and then during the game, and the players were able to apply that quite quickly, so I’m pretty optimistic that as long as we’re aware and prepared we have an advantage there.”

Trail beat the Spruce Kings 4-2 in their first meeting in Prince George on Sept. 21, but that was before the Smokies’ precipitous slide. P.G. has picked up a point in six straight games, with four wins and two OT losses. Still, the Smoke Eaters can take advantage of a depleted King’s lineup with injuries to Bryant Christian, Jake LeBrun, Mitch Barker, Justin Rai and Cole Todd.

Prince George will also be without goaltender Jesse Jenks who is playing in the Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S. with Team Canada West. However, Alex Murray is no slouch between the pipes going 7-6-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.

The Smoke Eaters meanwhile are without goalie Adam Todd and forward Tyson Witala who will likely be out two to three weeks with a lower body injury. Scott Davidson returns to the lineup Friday after sitting out a two-game suspension.

Trail then travels to Salmon Arm Saturday to play the SilverBacks. The Backs, 10-8-1-1, are in fifth spot in the Interior divison but just four points out of first place.

“I have seen them play. Their ‘D’ are very mobile and they move the puck very well, and the forwards are pretty smart and they attack the net very well. They are a good team and we’re going to bring the best that we got.”

The puck drops tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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