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What's on tap for the T-Birds

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The Thunderbirds will have their hands full with Kootenay's top line on Sunday. (whl.ca photo)

By Andrew Eide

The T-Birds continue their road trip this weekend with three games in three nights against Central Division Opponents. After dropping two straight games to start the road trip the T-Birds will try to get healthy again against three opponents that are beatable. Seattle managed wins agaisnt all three of their weekend opponents last year at home and hope to do it again - this time on the road.

Here's what's on tap for Seattle this weekend:

Friday: Medicine Hat Tigers (4-1-0-0), First Place Central Division

T-Birds all-time record against: 27-26-4-0-1

Last season: 1-0

Scouting Report: The Tigers are off to a strong start and will be getting stronger as Friday's game will be the first game back for Hunter Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk was drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft by Vancouver and stuck with them until this week. Shinkaruk is a goal-scoring machine and Seattle's defense will need to keep an eye on him whenever he is on the ice. He scored two goals against Seattle last year in a game at the ShoWare Center and has 100 career WHL goals in his three seasons. Right Winger Cole Sanford is off to a torrid start for the Tigers with six goals in the first five games of the season and is another player to keep an eye on.

The Tigers have been stingy defensively so far this season as they are only giving up two goals per game. Seattle is coming off a game in which they were shut out by Tri City and will have to find a way to rev up the offense if they want to beat the Tigers. Seattle will most likely see import goalie Marek Langhammer who is 2-1 on the year with a .917 save percentage.

The game Friday will also reunite former T-Birds enforcer Jacob Doty with his former club. Doty recently signed a contract with the St. Louis Blues of the NHL but has been returned to the WHL.

Saturday: Lethbridge Hurricanes (1-3-0-1), 6th Place Central Division

T-Birds all-time record against: 21-13-3-0-0

Last Season: 1-0

Scouting Report: There is not much expected out of the Hurricanes this season (other than new sweaters) and so far the preseason pundits appear to be right. Lethbridge has stumbled out of the gate and find themselves back where they ended last season - in last place. This could and probably should be a game that Seattle can get fat on. The Hurricanes have struggled to stop the puck this year and are giving up just under five goals per game. They picked up goalie Corbin Boes from Brandon this off season and he will most likely get the call on Saturday. Despite his talent the players in front of him should give Seattle ample chances to score.

Last year's leading goal scorer for the Hurricanes, Jamien Yakubowski, has yet to register a point for the club in five games so you can bet he will be pressing - Last year he potted 32 goals

Sunday: Kootenay Ice (2-2-0-0), 4th Place Central Division

T-Birds all-time record against: 7-16-1-4-1

Last Season: 1-0

Scouting Report: Any talk of the Kootenay Ice begins with their superstar center Sam Reinhart. Reinhart may be the best player in the WHL and is already on top of most scouting agencies' NHL Draft board. Due to a late birthday Reinhart enters his draft year with two full seasons already under his belt. His goal totals have risen each year and so far this year he three goals and 10 points in the team's first four games. That's pretty good scoring and like Shinkaruk for Medicine Hat, the T-Birds will need to have a plan for containing Reinhart on Sunday. Reinhart isn't a one man show however. His line mate Jaedon Descheneau also managed 30 goals last year and is off to an eight point start to the season. The Ice depth drops off after their top line and the T-Birds could take advantage and roll lines on them - which may be a key to victory.

In goal Kootenay is led by returning goalie Mackenzie Skapski who was big for them last year - especially down the stretch as Kootenay made a late season surge. The Ice play Calgary the night before taking on Seattle and with back-to-back games there is a chance that the T-Birds will see back up Wyatt Hoflin who only has 17 games of WHL experience.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.

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