Feisty 'Canes coming to town

SCOTT FISHER

, Last Updated: 6:13 AM ET

Here come the 'Canes.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes, who beat the Saskatoon Blades 4-3 last night in Game 7 of the opening round, will take on the Calgary Hitmen tomorrow night (7 p.m., fan960.com) in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Hurricanes are the defending Eastern Conference champions and were the pre-season pick of most pundits to return to the WHL final. But the talent-loaded 'Canes struggled to a 35-32-3-2 record, good enough for the seventh seed in the conference.

Heading into the post-season, Lethbridge was the easy choice as the dark horse no one wanted to face.

The second-seeded Blades found that out the hard way.

Hitmen centre Chase Schaber said the Hurricanes will be a handful.

"They play us tough and they play us right to the end," Schaber said.

"We'll have to have our work hats on against them every night."

The Hitmen won all six regular-season meetings, outscoring their southern rivals 24-10 in the process.

But, on paper, the Hurricanes take a backseat to no one. And they finally appear to be putting it all together.

"They've had a few ups and downs," Schaber said. "But they're a great team."

World junior star Zach Boychuk was phenomenal for the 'Canes in the opening round.

Defenceman Michael Stone said there are plenty of players on the Hurricanes' roster who require close attention.

"They're a big, fast team with a lot of skill," Stone said.

And there's that other aspect to the series: Revenge.The 'Canes swept the Hitmen -- the only time in franchise history Calgary went down in four straight -- in last spring's Eastern Conference final.

Thumbs up to lengthy rest

The Hitmen's reward for taking care of the Edmonton Oil Kings in short order was a nine-day break.

And while it may be hard to stay game-ready over such a long stretch, the break was welcomed by centre Brett Sonne. The world junior star sat out the clinching game with an upper-body ailment.

Based on line combinations at yesterday's practice -- which saw the St. Louis Blues prospect skating with Rigby Burgart and MacKenzie Royer -- he might not be completely healthy.

"I'm not sure yet," Sonne said when asked about his status. "I'm taking it day to day.

"I'm back on the ice and I'm feeling good."

Head coach Dave Lowry wasn't about to shed any light on the situation -- not during the playoffs.

"My only concern with him right now is that I don't want to put any pressure on him," Lowry said. "I don't want him to think he has to rush back if he's not 100%.

"We're moving forward with the lineup we had in the last game. That's what our mindset is right now."

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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