Check, please

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

They're not exactly clones.

But the Calgary Hitmen's two checking centres are interchangeable.

Riley Merkley and Ryan White both saw time on the club's third line during the opening round.

Merkley scored once against Lethbridge and was plus-2, while White chipped in with an assist and was minus-1.

But their biggest contributions are measured by the numbers that weren't on the scoreboard. The two pivots, along with wingers Steve Covington and Brodie Dupont, held the Hurricanes' top line to one goal apiece.

Co-coach Dean Evason said being able to use either centre as the club's defensive specialist is a luxury most teams would love to have.

"Merkley played the majority of the year in that spot," Evason said. "Neither one of them is very big and they play a similar type of game. They're both right-handed shots, have good hands and they compete hard.

"If Riley or Ryan are missing anything at this point, it's strength. But it's nice to have two guys we can change back and forth."

Merkley, whose 15 regular-season tallies ranked six on the team, is a solid scoring threat as well.

"Merkley has a real good offensive upside and that's why you see him on the powerplay," Evason said. "Whitey, at 16, competes as hard as anybody.

"When you combine those two people into one role, you've got a pretty good centreman."

With the Hitmen still waiting to see who they'll play in the next round -- either Brandon or Red Deer -- neither centre has been able to focus on their next assignment.

If Calgary draws the high-scoring Wheat Kings, the line matchups will be easy to predict.

The Wheaties' top scoring trio -- Eric Fehr, Ryan Stone and Lance Monych -- combined for 31 points in a five-game dismantling of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Merkley said he and White will be ready, no matter who they face.

"I guess that's a no-brainer," Merkley said of facing Brandon's snipers.

"It'll be a big challenge. If we play Brandon, and we can shut them down, I think we'll have success."

Whether he's facing the opposition's big guns or centring Calgary's fourth line with Darryl Moscaluk and Keegan Dansereau, he said he'll prepare the same way.

"Guys get tired in the playoffs, especially late in games, so the coaches can throw out whoever has the most legs," Merkley said. "Or maybe one guy is matching up better against someone at a certain time."

If the Rebels prevail in Game 7 tonight at Medicine Hat, there may not be a clear-cut line for Calgary's checkers to blanket.

With increased opportunity to pursue offensive opportunities, White said contributions from the third and fourth lines would be huge.

"The last two lines on both teams will hold one of the keys to the series," White said. "If we can shut their third and fourth lines down and we get some production out of ours, it would help our team a lot."


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