Oil Kings down to 10 games

CRASH CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Most people go to Jasper in February for a mini-vacation - little sun and skiing and the great outdoors.

The Edmonton Oil Kings got to see the inside of another rink.

The Oil Kings stopped in Jasper yesterday for a practice before continuing into the northern B.C. jungle for a back-to-back set against the Prince George Cougars.

When a second-year team is hanging on for the last playoff spot, to call any game "crucial" is redundant. That said, this doubleheader is exactly that.

"I don't know where we're at right now," said Kings coach Steve Pleau yesterday, as the team bus approached Jasper.

He was referring to the state of his team heading into the last 10 games of the team's regular season.

Or, maybe the season, as they sit two points back of Prince Albert for the 8th playoff spot in the WHL's Eastern conference - with the Raiders maintaining a game in hand.

"We had a good week of practice, we've had a week to kind of recuperate after playing seven games in 13 days," said Pleau. "Hopefully, we'll be fresh and ready to go."

Last weekend's trip across the border was a beauty and a beast for the Kings. Friday's third-period comeback win over the Tri-City Americans was a season highlight. That was followed by an 11-2 spanking in Spokane.

"I guess we've had our ups and downs," Pleau said of the recent stretch. "We played well last Friday night and we took our lumps Saturday against the defending Memorial Cup champs," Pleau said.

A lot of Pleau's caution comes from the recent slate of injuries that has left the team without its top defensive pair and starting goalie.

Adrian Van de Mosselaer is out for the season and his sidekick Mark Pysyk is not on this trip. As for Torrie Jung being back in pads against Prince George?

"That remains to be seen," said Pleau. "He's feeling good right now. He'll practise (in Jasper), he'll have a pre-game skate (today), and, if all goes well ... he will (start)."

On paper, the Cougars are a team the Oil Kings should take points from. But Prince George has been a thorn in Edmonton's side this season.

"If I was to single out one disappointing game all season long, it was the game when the Oil Kings had a 3-2 lead going into the third and just threw it away," said Oil Kings play-by-play man A.J. Jakubec, referring to a 4-3 loss at home on Jan. 21.

"Prince George is tough at home, too, but you'd like to think (the Oil Kings) can make that up (this weekend)," said Jakubec. Listen to the game on Team 1260 tonight a 6.

"Win and we're in" has been Pleau's mantra this week, although you can be sure Raiders coach Bruno Campese is using it too.

The Oil Kings do have a favourable schedule to take advantage of - no games left against any of the top four teams in the east, top seven in the west.

"As long as we can keep it together," said Pleau. "We're playing hard ... I think we're just striving for a little bit of consistency. Hopefully we can find that this weekend.

DAVID.CAMERON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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