Pleau isn't stressing

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, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Nobody seems fooled into thinking otherwise.

The Calgary Hitmen are a junior powerhouse with visions of Rimouski surely dancing in their heads. And they added the WHL's top sniper - Joel Broda - at the trade deadline beefing up an already potent lineup with that Memorial Cup trip in mind.

The Edmonton Oil Kings are a second-year franchise that needed a 73rd game to make a surprising trip to the playoffs.

"This is fun," said Kings head coach Steve Pleau yesterday, his team already down 1-0 in the first-round WHL east series after a 5-0 Hitmen win in Calgary on Thursday night.

"This is what you play hockey for - the opportunity to compete in the playoffs.

"It's the best team in the country," Pleau said of the southern opponents. "We just have to go out and play. And it is fun."

Pleau had said, after the Kings failed to get a single point in two games against Red Deer to clinch the 8th-seed spot, that "we have to learn from this."

One of the prime lessons was that the 11th-place Rebels had nothing more to lose. As they pushed, the Oil Kings kept gripping their stick tighter.

"We've got no pressure on us," Pleau said with a shrug.

"In the second period (Thursday) we unravelled a bit. There was some mental fatigue there, I think. We have to keep our mental toughness. But we've got no pressure. We just want to go have some fun.

"There's no reason to stress out because there's nothing you can do about it."

Except show up.

"We score the first goal, maybe it's a different game?" siad Pleau.

"Yeah, they're a great team," said Mark Pysyk, the Kings' top all-round defenceman even as a 16-year-old rookie. "All their lines have great firepower, lots of size. All their D-men are great, too. Just a solid team and a good challenge for us.

"We've got to play our game, battle and outwork them. That's our best chance to win."

The Kings did win against the Hitmen this year, hitting them with something of an early-season sucker-punch. After some key graduations in the offseason, most predictions said the Hitmen weren't the automatic league-toppers they had been in recent seasons.

But that first loss was to be the last third-period lead the Hitmen would blow all season. And the following five games were not so much a Battle of Alberta as a battering: total score, 28-7, Calgary, a four-touchdown performance the Stampeders would be proud of.

Torrie Jung is used to getting shots in the Oil Kings net. Likes it, in fact. He stopped 34 of 35 during the 2-1 overtime win in the extra game aginst the Raiders in Prince Albert last Tuesday. He stopped 32 of the 37 in the opener against the Hitmen.

He knows there are more coming. In waves.

"It seems like Calgary, no matter who they're sending out there, they have offensive lines. We know that coming in. We know it's going to an offensive series like that. It's a cool challenge though."

DAVID.CAMERON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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