No Ray of sunshine

Although Mike Labinjo is still feeling the effects of his injury and nearly was scratched a week...

Although Mike Labinjo is still feeling the effects of his injury and nearly was scratched a week ago, he is pumped to play the Esks. (Sun Media file)

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Ricky Ray doesn't need to be reminded about Mike Labinjo, because the memories are painful ones.

In the Labour Day rematch last season, the Calgary Stampeders defensive end hit the Edmonton Eskimos quarterback on the first two plays and eventually did it again for a three-sack outing.

"I remember that game well," said Ray yesterday upon arriving at McMahon Stadium ahead of tonight's meeting with the Stamps (8 p.m., TSN). "He had a great start. He was playing defensive end, and now he's inside, but he has the ability to make some plays for them.

"That's the thing. We have to get off to a good start and not give them sacks or take penalties. We want things to get going in the right direction from the start."

The Stamps have met the Eskimos three times this season, but Ray and Labinjo haven't gone head-to-head. All of those meetings came when Labinjo was out for six games with a fractured leg.

Actually, three of the main defensive lineman playing for the Stamps are different from the last meeting with Edmonton Sept. 11.

Both Charleston Hughes and Tearrius George made their season debuts a week after the Stamps beat the Esks in the Labour Day rematch.

Although Labinjo is still feeling the effects of his injury and nearly was scratched a week ago, he is pumped to play tonight with everything that is on the line for both clubs.

"I love playing Edmonton," Labinjo said. "We always know it will be a physical game, and that's the type of game I like to play. They bring the best out of you.

"Everyone feels Ricky is one of the best passers in the league, although he may not be statistically right now. It's always been a high-scoring game against them.

"We want to change that."

On Labour Day, the Stamps defence played its best game of the season in holding the Eskimos to just eight points. The rematch didn't go as smoothly, as Ray took advantage of turnovers to put up enough points that made it necessary for a last-minute Stamps TD to win.

Over the past month, the Stamps defence has played well and kept a struggling offence in games, but last week it allowed 22 points after the three-minute warning of regulation.

The 44-44 overtime tie with the Saskatchewan Roughriders restored confidence to the Stamps offence, but it didn't help the defence.

"Defensively, the guys are pissed about giving up 44 points," Labinjo said. "We want to come out and make a statement and get things on the right track. It was a game where we should have won. No one liked the feeling out of there. So we're focused for this game."

Labinjo has just one sack this season, but at least he's hit a quarterback in 2009.

George is itching to get his first one. He led the Stamps in that category in '07, getting eight in his rookie campaign before heading to the NFL.

It appeared George had recorded his first one two weeks ago in Montreal, but he was called for a horse-collar tackle on Alouettes pivot Anthony Calvillo.

"I should have four sacks right now," George said. "I have to get my name in that category. At least a number beside my name.

"Charleston had a great start when we came in (with six in three games). The last time we played the Eskimos, Jim (Davis) had a great game (with three sacks). I'm trying to get some to keep up."

Heading into last week's game, Labinjo was iffy and was going to be replaced by Miguel Robede until Robede came down sick.

It turned out to be the right move, and Labinjo is working hard to make sure he doesn't find himself watching again.

"I've been doing different things now," Labinjo said.

"I'm doing double rehab stuff.

"I told (head coach John Hufnagel) the best way to get my burst back was to get more reps at defensive end.

"Having that and double rehab, my leg is getting a lot stronger."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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