Two be continued

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

The Red Deer Centrium has not been kind to Calgary over the years.

But the Hitmen appear to have bucked the trend in 2004-05.

GM/head coach Kelly Kisio's squad, which travels up the Deuce tonight to take on the Rebels in the first game of a home-and-home set (7 p.m., The Fan 960), is 2-0-0-1 in Red Deer this season.

"We're working at making sure the kids are prepared each and every night, not just in Red Deer but any building," Kisio said.

Sniper Ryan Getzlaf has been through the lean years when a trip to Red Deer was little more than a humbling experience. And he enjoys being on the other side of it now.

"There's a few guys who have been around for a little while and they know what we've been through against that team and what it takes to win in that building," Getzlaf said.

The importance of the back-to-back tilts (including tomorrow night, 7 p.m. at the 'Dome) is lost on no one. With just seven points separating the first-place Lethbridge Hurricanes and fourth-place Rebels, the Central Division is by far the tightest in the WHL.

"There's so much parity in our league now so every game is tough," Kisio said. "Our whole division, it's a damn playoff game every night."

Calgary, which has won two straight and six of its last seven, has been on a roll since the trade-deadline acquisition of goaltender Justin Pogge.

And he'll need to be sharp if the Hitmen are to continue their winning ways in Red Deer. Scott Bowles, who was sent to Prince George for Pogge, had a sparkling 4-1 career record at the Centrium.

Getzlaf said the entire team is behind the new 'tender, who has won five of six starts since arriving in Calgary.

"It's been a confidence boost for everybody," Getzlaf said. "We had faith in him right away and any time you have a goalie everybody believes in, you're going to be successful."

The last time the two teams met, the Hitmen came away with an improbable 4-1 win, despite playing without Getzlaf and fellow world junior star Andrew Ladd.

The club's secondary scorers -- led by super-rookie Konstantin Pushkarev -- shocked the Rebels on Jan. 7. The Kazakhstan freshman has thrilled fans with his wildly unpredictable but always exciting style of play.

And he's played a major role in the squad's recent string of victories.

But Kisio thinks Pushkarev, who sits second behind Getzlaf in team goals (16) and points (37), has even more to offer.

"I think he's getting used to the style over here," Kiso said. "But we wish he'd shoot three times as much as he does.

"He's limiting his high-risk plays and buying into the North American system. But we don't want to take his creativity away from him ...

"He's come a long ways but I still think he can keep the game simpler."

RUSSELL WINS AWARD: Caroline's Ryan Russell was named Greyhound WHL player of the week yesterday.

The Kootenay Ice centre scored five goals and added a pair of assists in two wins last week.

The 17-year-old also won the award in November, making him the league's first two-time recipient.


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