The Spokane Chiefs are in Kamloops today, looking for a grand victory.
The Kamloops Blazes are wanting to spoil the party.
The Chiefs played their first WHL game in Kamloops' Memorial Arena, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Blazers on Oct. 4, 1985. They have since gone on to put up 999 regular-season WHL victories.
Spokane had a chance to win No. 1,000 on Saturday, but dropped a 4-3 decision to the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. The Chiefs have been idle since then, while the Blazers played twice, beating the visiting Kelowna Rockets 6-5 in overtime on Monday and losing 5-2 to the Winterhawks in Portland on Wednesday.
"(The Chiefs) haven't played since the 26th," Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said yesterday after practice at Interior Savings Centre. "But they have a lot of injuries. Talk about a team that isn't complaining about injuries . . . they've got their share."
The Chiefs' injury report shows forwards Alessio Bertaggia, Connor Chartier and Jackson Playfair, and defencemen Tyler King and Tanner Mort all out at least week-to-week with undisclosed "upper-body" injuries. Mort has been shutdown with post-concussion syndrome.
Even with the injuries Charron knows what to expect from head coach Don Nachbaur's Chiefs.
"They work," Charron said. "They'll have breakdowns but they work. They'll push to the end."
The Chiefs (30-18-2) have lost their last two outings. They are fourth in the Western Conference, nine points behind the Blazers (33-15-5).
Kamloops goes into tonight's game without defenceman Joel Edmundson, who has been suspended by the WHL for four games. Edmundson was given a checking-to-the-head major and game misconduct for an open-ice hit on Portland forward Adam De Champlain on Wednesday. De Champlain, an 18-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., left the game and didn't return. He may have a concussion.
"They really want to make a point of the hits to the head," Charron said.
Charron also is of the opinion that this was a check in which De Champlain should bear some of the responsibility for having his head down as he crossed the Portland blue-line and moved into the neutral zone with the puck.
"Players don't protect themselves," Charron said. "To me, that's a hit that should never have left the game. Why? It made a point to the players - don't go with your head down in the neutral zone. They're good hits to me.
"Joel is 6-foot-4 . . . 6-foot-5 . . . the guy is leaning forward, his head is down. Where's (Edmundson) going to hit? Is he not going to hit the head? Yeah!"
At the end of the day, though, Charron said: "I'm not going to dispute the ruling. It is what it is."
Edmundson, who isn't a repeat offender, also will miss a home-and-home series with the Everett Silvertips (there on Saturday, here on Thursday) and a visit by the Red Deer Rebels on Feb. 9.
The Blazers continue to be without centre Aspen Sterzer, who has returned home to Calgary as he continues to deal with post-concussion syndrome. Sterzer hasn't played since Dec. 29.
JUST NOTES: Game time tonight is 7 o'clock. . . . The game will be televised live by Shaw-TV. . . . G Cole Cheveldave is expected to make his fifth straight start for the Blazers. . . . In that Oct. 4, 1985 game, Mark Wingerter, with two, and Grant Delcourt gave the Chiefs a 3-0 lead before the game was six minutes old. Jim Kambeitz scored two shorthanded goals and also had two assists for the Blazers, with other goals coming from Rob Brown, Mark Kachowski and Trevor Hendry.
© Kamloops Daily News