Eastern promises

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

Random thoughts and observations as the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers battle tomorrow in the East Division semifinal playoff game in the Manitoba capital ...

- Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia shouldn't be fired if his club is defeated tomorrow, according to TSN analyst Duane Forde.

"Not a chance," said Forde, who will provide colour commentary on the East semifinal (11 a.m. MST kickoff) on TSN.

"If the Eskimo brass gave Maciocia a reprieve after missing the playoffs in consecutive years, following a Grey Cup win, then how could they possibly justify firing him now?

"In 2008, Maciocia and his staff revived the offence, discovered budding superstars Calvin McCarty and Kelly Campbell, got the most out of Kamau Peterson, changed the attitude of the defence and guided the team through horrific injuries to projected cornerstone players Jason Tucker and Fred Perry.

"Oh, yeah, they also went (above) .500 and made the playoffs in a year when everyone predicted they'd be spectators by November.

"After the progress that's been made this year, deciding the fate of Maciocia and his staff based on one game wouldn't be right."

The Eskimos finished the regular-season at 10-8 after a dismal 5-12-1 mark last year.

- Still with Forde, he gives the edge in tomorrow's game to Winnipeg for a few reasons.

"There's definitely not a clear favourite in this game, but Winnipeg has a slight edge for three reasons. The first is momentum. This is a team that is coming together at the right time, after dealing with injuries and other personnel issues in the first half of the season," he said.

"Second is health. Edmonton is banged up after playing "playoff style" games for the last two months. Winnipeg, on the other hand, is about as healthy now as they have been all year.

"Finally, home-field advantage is usually good for a couple of points a game ... and those couple of points could be the difference on Saturday."

- Will a change from past travel plans help the Eskimos stay focused on business on this road trip?

In the two ugliest road defeats of the year - 40-4 in Montreal and 55-9 in Regina - the club rolled into the visiting city two days in advance.

For this crossover playoff game tomorrow, the Esks will arrive in Winnipeg about 22 hours prior to kickoff.

Considering game time is 10 a.m. MST, there will be very little time for distractions.

- The over-under for the game is 54.5 points, according to one sportsbook.

In good weather this fall, the clubs combined to score 53 points in the first regular-season meeting and 58 in the other.

If there is still snow on the ground tomorrow at Canad Inns Stadium, being under 54.5 points looks wise.

- The possibility of 10 cm to 15 cm of snow on the ground by this afternoon in Winnipeg has prompted the Blue Bombers' front office to offer people $8.50 an hour to shovel snow from the stands and field.

Anybody interested is supposed to gather at Canad Inns Stadium at 5 p.m. today to start removing snow.

As an added incentive, the Bombers are offering free hot chocolate and a free ticket to the game to anybody who works more than four hours.

A winter storm watch turned to a warning in Winnipeg yesterday morning.

According to the forecast for tomorrow, snow isn't scheduled to fall at game time but it will be hovering around -4 C with a north wind at 25 km/h in the Manitoba capital.


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