Passing fancy

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

Craig Lineker has never even been to Las Vegas.

So you can forgive him for not being much of an oddsmaker.

The Calgary Hitmen defenceman couldn't wager a guess as to what the odds would have been two weeks ago of him being tied for the team scoring lead after the first round of the WHL playoffs.

"Probably not too solid," Lineker said with a chuckle. "I don't know what happened."

The 6-ft. 2-in., 200-pounder put up seven assists against Lethbridge to tie Freddie Pettersson (3 goals, 4 assists) atop the Hitmen charts.

"They're all assists so I don't have too many bragging rights," he said. "But I'm just happy to be getting the points as they come."

For the offensively challenged Hitmen, who host the run-and-gun Moose Jaw Warriors in Game 1 of the second round Saturday (noon at the 'Dome), Lineker's production has been a much-needed transfusion.

Since blueliner Dylan Yeo went down with a broken wrist late in the regular season, all-stars Brett Carson and Jeff Schultz have played in excess of 30 minutes a game.

Lineker has stepped up, made the most of his increased playing time and taken some of the pressure off his overworked teammates.

Assistant coach Blaine Forsythe said the former Saskatoon Blade and Regina Pat has always had the offensive tools.

"Other than (Carson and Schultz), he's probably playing the most minutes," Forsythe said. "He's averaging about 20 minutes a night and playing on the powerplay, too.

"Offensively, he's always had the talent. When he played Tier II in Calgary with the Royals, he was always a guy with some offensive upside.

"He's with his third team in the league now and he's looking to make an impact."

The 20-year-old, who had two goals and 20 points in 66 games during the regular season, said it took awhile to prove himself after joining the team from Regina in a December deal.

"I'm happy to step into that (top-four) role," he said. "I knew I could right from the get-go.

"Joining the team late, those first four guys were already established. But as soon as the opportunity came, I was ready to step up.

"Karl (Alzner) and I are logging more minutes now and we're happy to chip in."

- - -

HIT PARADE: List player Brandon Kozun, 15, is practising with the team for the next week. He played at Shattuck-St. Mary's this season ... Calgary hosts Games 1 (Saturday, noon) and 2 (Sunday, 2 p.m.) of the Eastern Conference semifinal. The Hitmen would also host Game 5 (Friday, April 14) and Game 7 (Wednesday, April 19), if necessary.

- - -

3 - 2 WARRIORS

OCT. 14 -- Troy Brouwer, the 2005-06 WHL scoring champ, scored the game-winner early in the third period as Moose Jaw dealt the Hitmen their first loss of the season after a 7-0 start.

It was the Warriors lone victory against Calgary this season.

- - -

2 - 1 HITMEN

OCT. 29 -- Freddie Pettersson and Ryan White, on the powerplay, scored third-period goals to pace the Hitmen. Lukas Vantuch assisted on both goals.

Troy Brouwer ruined Justin Pogge's shutout bid with 37 seconds remaining in the third.

- - -

5 - 1 HITMEN

DEC. 4 -- The Hitmen scored three times with the man advantage (Mike Reich, Jeff Schultz and Ryan White) and once while shorthanded (Dylan Yeo) in the lopsided win. Brodie Dupont also scored and added two assists while Riley Merkley had a trio of helpers.

- - -

2 - 1 HITMEN

FEB. 26 -- Missing six regulars, the flu-ravaged Hitmen came up with what coach Kelly Kisio called the best effort of the season.

Lukas Vantuch's third-period game winner handed the Warriors their first regulation loss in 16 games (13-0-2).

- - -

GAME 1

SATURDAY, NOON AT 'DOME


Videos

Photos