Revived Spirit of the West worries 67's

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

The 67's will be tempted to believe their big test of the weekend will come on Sunday at home from the mighty London Knights, not tonight against the Saginaw Spirit.

But that kind of thinking isn't going to happen.

At least that's what the 67's coaches hope.

"Since the start of the week, we've been talking about and preparing for the Saginaw game," said 67's assistant coach Vince Malette.

The Spirit come to Ottawa with one of the weakest records in the OHL, placing last in the West Division with 12 wins in 43 games.

But Saginaw has improved in recent weeks, going 5-5-0 since Dec. 18, and have won two straight heading into tonight's match at the Civic Centre (7:30 p.m.).

CLOSE LOSSES

"They've lost a couple of one-goal games and they've won some games. You just can't take anybody lightly at this time of the year," said Malette, who has run practices during the last three days with Brian Kilrea and Bert O'Brien in Vancouver to participate in Wednesday's CHL Top Prospects Game.

"We're striving to move ahead in the standings so we can get a better playoff position. I think the guys realize that if we don't come together as a group, we can lose to anybody."

The Spirit is a different team since the 67's visited Saginaw on Oct. 30 and got pairs of goals from Brad Bonello and Jakub Petruzalek during a 5-0 victory.

Bob Mancini took over behind the bench following the resignation of coach Doug Lidster, who left the club after a confrontation with goalie Mike Brown.

That goalie has since been traded to Owen Sound, and Saginaw also made a deal at the trade deadline earlier this month, acquiring forward Joe McCann from Kitchener for winger Jean-Michel Rizk.

MATTER OF RESPECT

"You've got to respect everybody in the league when they come in, and you've got to be prepared to play everybody," said Malette.

"They seem to have come together as a team. They've got no pressure. They've got a new coach and they're going to want to impress him for the rest of this year and next year."

IN THE CREASE: Kilrea and O'Brien returned to Ottawa yesterday from B.C. ... Spirit winger Marek Kvapil, a rookie Czech import, has a streak of 13 straight games with at least one point. He has 11 goals and 12 assists during that span ... Anthony Guadagnolo starts in net tonight. Danny Battochio is recovering from a shoulder injury, so Matthew Spezza will dress as the back-up ... Manotick's Jeff Weber shares the Saginaw goaltending duties with rookie Aaron Rock ... About 750 tickets remained yesterday morning for Sunday's game against the Knights, who bring an OHL-best 38-4-2-0 record into the game ... Ottawa D Brodie Beard has skated during practice this week and should soon return to the lineup from a shoulder injury.


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