The Kamloops Blazers will have a quicker lineup tonight than in any of their previous three WHL games against the Victoria Royals.
That’s because sophomore forward Deven Sideroff is expected to play for the first time this season.
Sideroff, an 18-year-old from Summerland, has been out since the start of the season with an undisclosed illness. A third-round pick by Anaheim in the NHL’s 2015 draft, Sideroff went to camp with the Ducks. Upon his return to Kamloops, he was ill, so has yet to play.
Last season, playing on the club’s top line alongside Matt Needham and Cole Ully, the speedy Sideroff finished with 42 points, 17 of them goals.
Chances are good that he will be reunited with Needham against Victoria, perhaps with newcomer Gage Quinney on the left side. Needham, a 76-point man last season, has a goal and five assists in six games this season, while Quinney has two goals and two assists in two games since being acquired from the Kelowna Rockets.
There were times during the exhibition season when head coach Don Hay had Jake Kryski, who has seven points in nine games, on the left wing with Needham and Sideroff, so that could be an option, too.
The Blazers go into this game at 2-7-0 and fighting to vacate the Western Conference basement. They are tied down there with the Portland Winterhawks (2-6-0). However, the Blazers are coming off perhaps their best game of the season, a 5-1 beating of the Chiefs in Spokane on Saturday night. One night earlier, they dropped a 7-2 decision to the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash.
The Royals come in at 7-3-0. They are tied with the Rockets (7-4-0) atop the Western Conference, but Victoria has lost its last two games — 3-1 to the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Friday and 4-2 to the host Thunderbirds on Saturday.
Defenceman Joe Hicketts, who is from Kamloops, leads the Royals in assists (10) and points (10). The Royals have beaten the Blazers three times already this season; Hicketts has six assists in those games.
If you’re wondering why the Blazers are off to the start they are, consider that, according to statistics compiled by Paul Figler, they are in the bottom five in shooting percentage (9.09), save percentage (.870), shots per game (28.11), goals for (2.56) and goals-against (4.00). . . . You may check out all the numbers right here.
JUST NOTES: Game time tonight is 7 o’clock. . . . The Blazers are at home again on Friday, this time against the Calgary Hitmen, who lost 5-2 to the Cougars in Prince George last night. They’ll play in Prince George again tonighty. . . . G Coleman Vollrath of the Royals has played all but 20 minutes of their games this season. He is 7-3-0, 1.86, .930. The backup is Griffen Outhouse, a 17-year-old from Williams Lake. . . . The Royals also had been carrying G Evan Smith, a seventh-round pick of the Nashville Predators in the NHL’s 2015 draft. However, he now is with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. . . . The Blazers are likely to counter with sophomore Connor Ingram, who is 2-5-0, 3.94, .874. Backup Dylan Ferguson is 0-2-0, 3.87, .869 in 124 minutes. . . . After tonight, the Blazers and Royals won’t meet again until a Dec. 30 date in Kamloops. The Royals also play here on New Year’s Day.