No stock in No. 2

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Don't look now, but the Calgary Hitmen are ranked No. 2 in Canada.

That's according to a panel of NHL scouts who do the rankings in a CHL poll, and this one just happens to be a pre-season sampling.

That's why Hitmen head coach/GM Kelly Kisio puts as much stock in the rankings as he does in voodoo dolls -- absolutely none.

"Nothing whatsoever," said Kisio, whose club opens the season tonight (Saddledome, 7 p.m.) against the Red Deer Rebels for the first of six meetings between the rivals.

"A couple of years ago, we were ranked number one and it didn't really work out, so it's nothing for us.

"We're in first place just like everybody else."

It's a bit surprising the Hitmen would be No. 2, behind the OHL's London Knights. They're a solid, playoff-calibre hockey team, but second-best in Canada may be too high for this club.

Sure, they've got the likes of Ryan White (89 points last season) and blue-chip blueliner Karl Alzner, but there's no Justin Pogge, Ryan Getzlaf or Andrew Ladd like in 2005 when they were ranked at the top of the heap to start the season and lost in the early rounds of the playoffs.

But Alzner said the high ranking is warranted for his team, which lost in the Eastern Conference final last season against Medicine Hat.

"We have good reason to be number two," said the Burnaby product who was taken in the first round (fifth overall) by the Washington Capitals in June after putting up eight goals and 39 helpers in 63 games last season.

"This year, we have a good, talented group of hard working guys and I think we can live up to those expectations.

"Our d-corps is just so strong, our goaltending gets better every game and we have a guy like Ryan White who always gets better every single season and it's another year for him to shine. I think he's really going to take over the league."

Dan Spence is the team's No. 1 goalie for the second straight season and should have a good year, but it'll be Alzner who will play a huge role for the club -- and it looks as if he's going to log plenty of icetime.

"He's going to be required to play some minutes again and play important minutes," said Kisio.

Alzner practised with the Hitmen for the first time yesterday after playing in the Russia/Canada Super Series, then headed off to Capitals training camp last week.

For tonight's tilt, the Hitmen are nursing some injuries, especially on the blueline, where Keith Seabrook (shoulder) and Dan Mercer (hand) will be on the shelf for at least three weeks each. Forward Ryan Letts is also banged up and won't play.

White is still at camp with the Montreal Canadiens, as is defenceman Alex Plante with the Edmonton Oilers.

DANSEREAU SUSPENDED

Calgary Hitmen forward Keegan Dansereau has been sent home for "disciplinary reasons."

Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio did not want to elaborate on what happened with the skilled forward, who returned from Florida Panthers training camp last week.

Kisio did say anything's possible when it comes to the Saskatoon product rejoining the team.

Last season, Dansereau scored 28 goals with 31 helpers in 71 games.


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