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Blazers prepped for weekend doubleheader

Giants and Winterhawks are on their way
January 28, 2016 9:27 P.M.

The Kamloops Blazers come off their second-longest break of the regular-season to face the visiting Vancouver Giants tonight (Friday) and the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday.
The Blazers have had five days between games; they also had a five-day respite in November. The longest break between games this season — seven days — came over the Christmas break
Considering that the Blazers have lost their last three games, and five of six, you can bet that head coach Don Hay put them through their paces each of the last four days. They played a weekend doubleheader against the host Prince George Cougars, losing 9-4 and 6-1, before returning home. They didn’t skate on Sunday and then it was noses to the grindstone from Monday through Thursday.
It’s not yet known which two goaltenders the Blazers will dress tonight.
Starter Connor Ingram suffered a knee injury in the opener in Prince George and didn’t dress on Saturday. However, he has practised this week and, despite being shown on the WHL injury report as being out week-to-week, might be ready tonight.
If not, backup Dylan Ferguson would make his second straight start.
There was some talk that the Blazers might bring in Cole Kehler to back up Ferguson, if necessary. Kehler, who shared the Kamloops goaltending duties with Ingram last season, started this season with the Blazers, but now is with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials.
Kehler and the Centennials are coming off their finest moment of this season, having beaten the high-flying Penticton Vees, 6-4, in Merritt on Wednesday night. Kehler stopped 36 shots as he improved his record to 12-19-1. He’s got a 3.85 GAA and .896 save percentage for a team that is 16-26-3-1 and last in the six-team Interior Division, 43 points behind Penticton (39-6-0-1).
With Ingram having practised, however, chances are he either starts of backs up Ferguson against the Giants tonight.
Meanwhile, the Blazers will be without Ryan Rehill, their leader on defence, after he suffered an undisclosed injury on Saturday. At the same time, they will welcome back sophomore defenceman Dawson Davidson, who hasn’t played since Dec. 28.
But if you want to talk injuries, well, take a look at the Giants.
They have gotten back forwards Ty Ronning, their leading sniper, and Carter Popoff, a fine 20-year-old. But they still have eight players on the injury list.
That includes forward Tyler Benson, a projected first-round selection in the NHL’s 2016 draft, who has had a nightmarish season due to preseason surgery and injuries. Also missing are forwards Thomas Foster, Dawson Holt and Dakota Odgers. Defenceman Matt Barberis is out month-to-month, so may not play again this season, while defenceman Ryely McKinstry and forwards Johnny Wesley and Brendan Semchuk, who is from Kamloops, have been shut down.
One of the results of all this is that the Giants are 10th in the 10-team Western Conference, their 18-27-5 record leaving them eight points out of a playoff spot.
The Blazers (22-18-7) and Giants have played only twice this season — Kamloops is 1-0-1 — so will meet six times between now and season’s end. The Blazers hold down the conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Spokane Chiefs.
The Winterhawks are scheduled to visit the Kelowna Rockets tonight before making their way to Kamloops. The Blazers are 2-0-1 against the Winterhawks, including a doubleheader sweep in Portland two weeks ago — 4-3 in OT and 3-0.
The Winterhawks have won their last two games, leaving them at 25-21-2, good for third place in the U.S. Division, three points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds and three ahead of Spokane.
JUST NOTES: Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. . . . The Giants are 1-6-0 since the trade deadline; the Blazers are 2-4-1. . . . Cameron Hughes, aka Super Fan, will be in the stands tonight doing his thing. It’s also Heap the Honda for Literacy in Kamloops night, with fans being asked to bring donations of new or gently used children’s books. . . . Portland allowed nine goals in three games last weekend, with five of those coming while the Winterhawks were shorthanded.
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