Eager to butt heads

ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

The Manitoba Moose won't be the only hockey club evaluating talent tonight in Steinbach.

The Manitoba Bisons are putting the finishing touches on their three-week training camp, using tonight's contest against the Moose prospects as a chance to finalize their roster for the coming 2007-08 Canada West season. With about five or six cuts left to be made, this will be the Herd's final exhibition game before the conference schedule gets under way Oct. 5-6 in Regina.

"We're going to look at some line combinations and we're going to try to finalize our roster at the same time," Bisons coach Don MacGillivray said yesterday of his plans for the game. "We still have a couple of decisions to make. I'm not sure who will be in there and who won't be, but we have to try and formulate our team. It's our last opportunity to do that."

Tonight's game is mutually beneficial for both teams. The Moose have a chance to make a short list of ECHL players they'll keep on speed-dial this season (when injuries and call-ups impact their roster) while the Bisons view this stiff test against first-year pros as a nice challenge for some of their younger players.

MacGillivray figures some of his charges might view it as a opportunity to make an impression.

"If you look at the players who will probably be playing for the Moose, it will be players who are just coming out of college or the junior ranks, or some first and second year pros," he said. "For our guys that's exciting ... they didn't get invited to an American Hockey League training camp so they can maybe use this to show themselves off a little bit. Because of that, I would think it will be a pretty intense game."

Injuries in this match-up are a concern for the Bisons. Two years ago, leading scorer Paul Deniset was on the receiving end of a questionable check by one of the Moose maybes (Colt King) and suffered a concussion. Deniset missed most of the first half and the Herd struggled to find their rhythm that season.

Since then, teams have been told to be mindful of the game's purpose. Everyone in the stands wants to see a wide-open affair, but players have to remember that some are looking to make an impression. And if they can't do it with the puck then they'll find other ways to get noticed by the Moose evaluation committee.

"You have to approach this like it's a meaningful game, because for many guys on the other side, it is," fourth-year defenceman and captain Rob Smith. "I was part of Moose camp last year, and it was pretty intense. There's only a few spots open on the club and you have to really impress the coaches if you want to make the team. They're not going to take marginal guys, so you have to do something to really stick out. Guys know this, so it will be a physical game."

"It might be like the playoffs out there," the Steinbach product added. "It's a smaller rink, so there will be some tight spaces and not a lot of room."


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