Tigers have Hitmen by tail

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

One period won't cut it tonight.

The Calgary Hitmen managed to pick up a victory Sunday even though they left their 'A' game in the dressing room after the first intermission.

Of course, that was against the woeful Regina Pats, the second-worst team in the WHL.

And the Hitmen are well aware a similar course of action tonight in Medicine Hat (7 p.m., FAN 960) would be a recipe for disaster.

"We've struggled against them lately," Hitmen defenceman Darryl Yacboski said of the Tigers, who are 4-0 against Calgary this season. "As long as we play hard for three solid periods, I think we'll be successful.

"They stick to a good team game and they never get too far away from it. Any time you have that combination of people buying into the system, it makes for a good game."

The Hitmen couldn't have picked a better time to invade the Gas City.

Owners of a modest four-game winning streak, including three straight following the trade deadline, the Hitmen are brimming with confidence as they head to the Hat for the key Central Division tilt.

"We're on a winning streak and it's a lot better coming into a big game on a positive streak than the other way around. But having said that, we can't rely on the last few games."

The Hitmen (22-15-6-2) trail the second-place Tigers (25-13-3-2) by three points. Then again, Calgary is just two points clear of the Red Deer Rebels in the battle for third.

While tonight's game will certainly have a big impact on the standings, it is perhaps just as important for the Hitmen to overcome the mental block the Tigers represent.

If the season ended today, Calgary and Medicine Hat would face each other in the first round of the playoffs.

"There is a good chance we could play them in the playoffs, so we want to have success against them during the year so we can learn from it and take it into the playoffs."

Hating the Tigers is nothing new to Tyrel Lucas, acquired from Prince George at the deadline last Monday.

The former Lethbridge Hurricane has plenty of experience dealing with what will surely be another sellout crowd.

"Playing in Lethbridge, we had a pretty good rivalry with the Hat," Lucas said. "It's a crazy barn to play in but it's exciting too. This is a big four-point game."

SHORT SHIFTS: The Hitmen won't have a full roster tonight in Medicine Hat.

Centre Riley Merkley and d-man Dustin Kohn are in Vancouver for tonight's CHL Top Prospects Game.

In addition, rookie right winger Keegan Dansereau (shoulder), blueliner Brett Carson (concussion) and left wing Darryl Moscaluk (ankle) are on the sideliness.

"We finally get everybody back, have four lines and six or seven D available to us, and all of a sudden we're down to 10 forwards and five D for (tonight's) game," said co-coach Dean Evason.

The league likely will be handing down a suspension to Kamloops enforcer Matt Kassian, who jumped Carson Saturday night. All head injuries are automatically reviewed by the WHL head office.


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