Hitmen's first real test

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Coaches can only learn so much from watching scrimmages and horseshoe drills.

They need to get a look at their players in a game situation.

The Calgary Hitmen brass will finally get that chance tonight in Airdrie (7 p.m.) when the Red Deer Rebels provide the opposition.

Most fans will be interested in watching the goaltending battle between rookie Marty Jones and 19-year-old Brant Miller.

Both 'tenders are expected to play 30 minutes apiece.

But Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio said there are plenty of other spots up for grabs as well.

"I think we have some forward positions that still have to be settled," Kisio said.

"And obviously, we have some spots on defence.

"We have a number of spots that can be won or lost, so (this game) should be important for a lot of guys."

The Hitmen are still carrying 31 bodies but Kisio said he'll trim that number after tonight's game.

"We've got some youngs guys we need to send back so they can get back to school and their midget teams. We'll do that after the game."

With an abundance of talent up front and the blueline needing some help for the first time in years, Kisio might look to make a deal before the regular season kicks off Sept. 22 against the Rebels.

But he doesn't foresee putting a trade together during the next few days.

"We're obviously looking to improve ourselves but other teams won't do anything for the next week or so," he said.

"They want to analyze what they have and what they don't have.

"So it'll probably be another week before (trades) start happening in our league."

The 'new rules,' implemented in the NHL as well as the OHL and QMJHL last season, take effect tonight in the western circuit.

The smaller goaltending equipment won't be scrutinized in the pre-season but the crackdown on interference will be in place.

"If they have new pads, they wear them," Kisio said.

"If they don't, it's not a major deal."

Kisio said the rule changes should benefit his club, which should be more offensive than in years past.

"I think we'll be fine," he said. "We have lots of skilled forwards who can make use of the powerplay time. And they can also kill penalties.

"I just hope it allows us to get our young guys on the ice as much as we've done in the past.

"With all the penalties, it might not. We'll have to see how it works out."


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