Kilrea isn't done dealing yet

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

These are tense times in the Ottawa 67's locker room. As the trade deadline of Jan. 10 approaches in the Ontario Hockey League, coach/GM Brian Kilrea is working the phones, listening to pitches and making a few of his own.

The players know Kilrea is disappointed with the way the season has played out. The team is stuck just above the .500 mark at 16-15-4 (with one OT loss) as it heads into the final few months of the regular season.

First came the dispute in late November between the coach and Peter Tsimikalis, which led to the trade that sent the forward -- who was popular with his teammates -- to Oshawa for Chris Hulit.

Then defenceman Kyle Wharton, a local kid from Stittsville and a second-round NHL draft pick of Columbus who was also unhappy with his situation in Ottawa (as was the team's coaching staff about his on-ice performances), was shipped to the Soo for blueliner Dave Jarram.

All this adds to the anxiety that Kilrea will pull the trigger on more moves in the days ahead -- right up to Jan. 10.

TRADE BREWING?

It's likely he will, and another trade could be made in the next couple of days.

Rumours like these at this time of year have always been a reality in junior hockey during the weeks leading to the trade deadline, but have increased significantly in the years since Internet use has exploded.

Players only need access to a computer and to log on to any of a number of chat sites and junior hockey blogs for the latest gossip concerning who's coming and who's going.

"There's lots of rumours flying around here. I think everyone's heard their name at least once," said 67's captain and Sens draftee Will Colbert.

"But what can you do about it? If it's going to be you, it's going to be you."

Some players on this team have stepped up their performances in recent weeks to show they don't want it to be them.

MANCARI ON ROLL

Winger Mark Mancari had a slow start to the year, but has improved in a big way recently with performances with presence, ones expected of a 6-foot-3, 225-lb. forward.

He was rewarded recently with the league's player of the week honour after a great stretch during which he scored eight times in five games.

That's the kind of effort this team needs if it's going to make any sort of a successful playoff run this season.

The 67's should have no problem qualifying for the post-season because they had a nine-point advantage on the ninth-place St. Michael's Majors going into last night's games.

But if the season were to end now, the 67's would be ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference and would face a tough road in the playoffs as the bottom seed.

Eastern teams are looking at this year's playoff picture as a chance to get into the Memorial Cup without winning the league title.

The London Knights get an automatic berth into the Cup as host team, and everybody expects them to be the club that gets through the playoffs out of the Western Conference and into the league championship.

If that happens, the team that wins the Eastern playoffs would gain a spot in the Memorial Cup as well, since it would be playing the Knights for the league championship.

With that in mind, the GMs and the coaches from most of the Eastern teams will be interested in making trades during the next few days before the deadline to give their clubs a chance at a run for the conference title.

Ottawa is one of those teams.

It's going to be an interesting week, and the tension will continue.


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