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What's on tap for the T-Birds

SEA KEL Apr 3 13 61035

Seattle hopes for a happier result as they return to Kelowna on Friday (photo whl.ca)

By Andrew Eide

After one of their most successful weekends in recent memory the T-Birds have three more games on the slate this coming week. Seattle sits a 6-2-0-0 on the season so far which is good for a first place tie in the U.S. Division.

The team will have a new look as they hit the ice this week after making two trades on Wednesday afternoon. Defensemen Adam Henry should make his T-Birds debut Friday and it will be interesting to see how he fares with his new club.

There are also some injury issues that Seattle will have to deal with this week. Branden Troock is listed as week-to-week which most likely means he won't play in any of the next three games - we will have to wait and see. Troock's line mate Connor Honey is also listed as day-to-day and hopefully he will be able to get into the games - the same goes for big defenseman Evan Wardley.

Even if they are still missing those players the team's depth seems to be improved and they will still throw out a formidable lineup and you can bet that head coach Steve Konowalchuk still expects to win all three games.

Here's what's on tap for the coming week.

Friday: At Kelowna Rockets (5-1-0-1), First Place B.C. Division

T-Birds All Time Record Against: 57-50-2-10-10

Last season: 1-2-1-0 (lost in seven games in first round of playoffs)

Scouting Report: The last time the T-Birds were in Prospera Place they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 in overtime to the Rockets. That game culminated a wildly improbable and entertaining opening round playoff series. Will we get the same kind of drama Friday night? It's possible. Both teams come into the game playing well and Kelowna suffered their only regulation defeat earlier this week at Spokane. The Rockets are pretty much the same club that Seattle saw in the playoffs. They are led by Tyson Baillie who is a strong forward and top NHL prospect, they have a deep defense led by New Jersey Devils prospect Damon Severson and have a veteran goalie in 20-year-old Jordan Cooke.

Making the Rockets tougher this year is rookie winger Nick Merkley who was just named WHL Player of the Week. Seattle got a brief glimpse of Merkley as a 15-year-old in the playoffs last year and he is back and looks like he is going to be star. He is leading the team in goal scoring and has already turned in three multi-point games. Seeing how he matches up with Seattle's own 16-year-old star Mathew Barzal will be one of the more interesting story lines to this game. Last year Seattle did a good job of wearing down the Rockets defense physically and they will have to use their size as an advantage in this one if they wish to avenge last year's playoff loss.

Saturday: Tri City Americans (3-5-0-1), 5th Place U.S. Division

T-Birds All Time Record Against: 111-93-13-7-6

This Season: 1-1-0-0 (Last meeting Tri City 3 Seattle 0)

Scouting Report: Seattle returns home on Saturday night to play the same team they played in their last home game - the Tri City Americans. This is already the third meeting of the season between the two clubs and they should be very familiar with each other. The Americans have struggled with consistency so far in the young season but are always a tough out. Their top goal scorer is Brian Williams who has eight of the clubs 21 goals and five of those goals have come in the two games with Seattle - he accounted for all three Americans' goals in their recent 3-0 victory at home against the T-Birds. Connor Rankin is also a player to watch as the forward topped 30 goals last year and is always a threat to score.

In net Tri City boasts one of the best goalies in the CHL. Eric Comrie is as good as they come but Seattle has some recent success against him. They have already bested him once this year and managed to beat him twice last season before he was hurt and out for the year. Despite how good he is the T-Birds should have some confidence going against him. As with any good goalie they will need two things to beat him - traffic and shots.

Wednesday: At Kamloops Blazers (2-5-0-0), 4th place B.C. Division

T-Birds All Time Record Against: 56-91-9-5-3

Last Season: 1-3-0-0

Scouting Report: The Blazers are a far cry from the team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals in last year's playoffs. Gone are scorers Colin Smith and J.C. Lipon to the professional ranks and this off season they dealt veteran goalie Cole Cheveldave to the Prince Albert Raiders. What that means is that they are in full on rebuild mode - and it shows. The Blazers have not burst out of the gates and only have two wins on the season and this is a game that the T-Birds should win, despite it being a road game. The Blazers still have Tim Bozon who scored 91 points last year but so far have been struggling to score goals as a group. Through seven games they have only managed 16 goals, which is the second fewest total in the WHL. Seattle's defense should be able to shut down the Blazers offense in this one.

The Blazers felt like they could ship off Cheveldave because they liked the younger Taran Kozun. Kozon will most likely get the nod against Seattle and he is a tough goalie to beat with a save percentage north of .900. Again, Seattle will have to make sure they fling a lot of rubber at him if they want to win.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide

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