Stumbling Hitmen search for answers

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Looks like the Calgary Hitmen need to take the car in for a tune-up.

Winners of just two games in January, the Hitmen need a clean air filter, some new sparkplugs and a tire rotation as they head into tonight's tilt against the Eastern Division-leading Brandon Wheat Kings (Saddledome, 7 p.m.).

As assistant coach Dave Lowry puts it, the club needs to do the all-important little things better and the car should run a lot smoother.

"We've gotten away from those things that win hockey games like winning one-on-one battles, competing, taking penalties at inopportune times and our special teams haven't been where they were prior to Christmas, so everything factors in," said Lowry, whose team is 2-5-2-1 in its last 10 and has lost seven of eight.

"Things become magnified and we have to get back to the mindset of winning hockey games 1-0."

No doubt a big factor has been the sputtering special teams, which have been misfiring like an old jalopy.

The Hitmen penalty killers have given up 17 goals during the past 63 opposing powerplays, or a paltry kill rate of 73.7%. But over the last two games the PK has been terrible, giving up five goals on nine chances.

"We've worked hard on the penalty kill the last two games and had a couple of bad bounces, like a puck going in off a couple of skates against Swift Current (a 4-3 shootout loss)," said Hitmen centre Ryan White, who takes on his hometown club tonight.

For White, who won a national championship in midget, it's been a rough stretch because he's never been through a slump like this.

"It's the first time I've been in something like this and me and a couple other guys have also been slumping a little bit of late.

HIT PARADE:

The first 2,000 fans entering the Saddledome's west entrance for tonight's game against Brandon get an Andrew Ladd bobblehead ... Sunday's game against the Kelowna Rockets has been moved up to 1 p.m. (Sportsnet) and, after the contest, many members of the Hitmen will shave their heads to raise money to fight cancer.


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