Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Whalers play three in four this week

With a 13-7-1-1 record, two consecutive sellouts last week and three straight home games at Compuware Arena this week, the Plymouth Whalers look to continue to move up the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division standings.

The Whalers host West Division rivals Saginaw on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and Sault Ste. Marie on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. before hosting the Sudbury Wolves this Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

Here’s a look at each game:

Wednesday – Saginaw (9-9-2-1) at Plymouth (13-7-1-1), 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena: The Spirit and Whalers meet for the first of eight games this season, and there’s added spice to the rivalry with former Plymouth assistant coach Todd Watson taking over as head coach in Saginaw. The Spirit is getting excellent seasons from veterans Jack Combs (13-20-33), Ryan McDonough (15-11-26) and New York Rangers draft choice Tomas Zaborsky (12-12-24). Detroit Red Wings prospect Jan Mursak (5-16-21) plays with speed.

The Whalers are led offensively by Carolina draft pick Chris Terry (15-26-41, +15) and veteran Andrew Fournier (19-17-36, +7), who comes into the weekend with a 13-game scoring streak (11-12-23) dating back to Oct. 19. Plymouth is led defensively by Wes Cunningham (3-23-26, +6) and Carolina prospect Brett Bellemore (3-6-9, +13 in 10 games). With the trade of Michal Neuvirth last week to Windsor, Brownstown’s Jeremy Smith has taken over the Whalers’ lead goaltending position and has posted a 2.78 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 12 games. Smith is a candidate to represent the United States in the World Junior Championship over the Christmas holidays in the Czech Republic.

Friday – Sault Ste. Marie (16-5-1-1) at Plymouth, 2:00 p.m., Compuware Arena. The Greyhounds are battling with Windsor and Kitchener for the top spot overall in the OHL standings. Head coach Craig Hartsburg is receiving good years from goaltender Kyle Gajewski (2.46, .913 in 19 games), defenseman Josh Godfrey (8-13-21, +9) and leading scorer and center Dustin Jeffrey (14-23-37, +5) – a Pittsburgh Penguins’ draft choice who has already been signed by the Penguins. Sault Ste. Marie defeated Plymouth, 4-2, on Oct. 14 at the Steelback Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

Saturday – Sudbury (7-16-0-0) at Plymouth, 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena. After playing in the Rogers Ontario Hockey League Championship Series last year and losing to the Whalers in six games, the Wolves are rebuilding under general manager and head coach Mike Foligno. The Wolves depend heavily on veteran goaltender Sebastian Dahm (3.62, .910 in 18 games) and veterans forwards Kevin Baker (13-9-22) and Patrik Lusnak (6-16-22) and second-year right wing Jared Staal (8-7-15). Plymouth defeated Sudbury, 6-5, at the Sudbury Community Arena on Oct. 13.

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