Top trio deadly against Hitmen

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

He wasn't fooling anyone.

But Kelly Kisio thought he'd give it a shot anyways. This is the playoffs, after all.

Asked about the availability of defenceman Darryl Yacboski, who has battled shoulder troubles all season, for the Calgary Hitmen's first-round series against Lethbridge, Kisio reverted to 'playoffspeak.'

"He's day to day with an upper body injury, how's that?" Kisio said, tongue-in-cheek.

"No, we don't know exactly when he'll be back. He's going to see a surgeon this week and then we'll assess it to see if he can do any more damage to it or not."

Yacboski, the club's most physical blueliner, could play a major role in keeping the Hurricanes' top guns in check.

The 'Canes are led by their top trio of Colton Yellow Horn, Jonathan Filewich and Kyle Pess. The talented threesome has been particularly hard on the Hitmen this season.

Lethbridge has scored 13 goals in six games against Calgary in '04-05. At least one of the three was in on 12 of them.

Kisio wasn't about to tip his hand when asked who would be given the responsibility of neutralizing the 'Canes' top line.

And for the first two games in Lethbridge, it may not matter who he wants to use as the blanket line.

"It's tough when you're on the road," Kisio said.

"They can basically put that line out against whoever they want. We'll assess it after the first couple of games and decide when we come home what we can do as far as the last change.

"But it's a team game and whatever five guys are on the ice are going to have to perform well in their own zone to limit their chances."

Although Kisio wouldn't admit it, he'll likely try to get the defensively competent Brodie Dupont-Riley Merkley-Steve Covington triumvirate out against the Lethbridge snipers.

Merkley has drawn the opposition's top centres all season and said he's ready for the task if it's given to him.

"We did play quite a bit against that line a lot so maybe we'll go against them," Merkley said. "But that's up to the coaches.

"I'm not sure how we'll match up. But they have a few solid lines, so everyone's going to have to be responsible."

Merkley said there's only one way to slow them down: Take the body at all times.

"Being physical is the key," he said. "They have a lot of skill but I think they're a smaller team and they don't like to get hit.

"If you're physical on them right from the start, I think we'll have an advantage."

Despite the disproportionate success of its top line, Lethbridge is hardly a one-trick pony. After Yellow Horn (35 goals and 86 points) and Filewich (42 goals), the 'Canes can throw out an impressive second line centred by 2003-04 WHL scoring champ Tyler Redenbach.

The former Swift Current Bronco is flanked by Kris Versteeg and John Lammers, who scored one of the nicest goals of the year with a between-the-legs beauty against Red Deer on Sunday.

Merkley knows the Hitmen will have to keep many 'Canes in check if they hope to win the series.

"Playoffs are huge and you can't depend on one or two guys to win you hockey games," Merkley said.

Maybe not. But you can lean on them heavily.


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