PREVIEW: CALGARY AT LETHBRIDGE

Dec 29, 2012 - 05:35 MST

HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (23-9-1-3) wrap up a home-and-home series tonight when they visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes (18-16-1-4) at the Enmax  Centre.  Last night the ‘Canes edged the Hitmen 2-1 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.  Brady Ramsay and Sam McKechnie scored for Lethbridge in the win, while Brooks Macek added Calgary’s lone tally, netting a power play marker late in the third period.  Chris Driedger made 23 saves in the Hitmen net as Calgary outshot Lethbridge 37-25.  At 50 points, Calgary sits third in the Eastern Conference standings, three points behind the conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings and nine points ahead of Lethbridge.

VS. LETHBRIDGE: Tonight is the fourth of six meetings between the Hitmen and Hurricanes. Calgary leads the season series 2-1 following a home-and-home sweep at the end of November.  Defencemen Alex Roach (2g, 1a) and Jaynen Rissling (1g, 2a) are Calgary’s leading scorers in the series against Lethbridge with three points each, while Greg Chase (1g, 1a) and Spencer Humphries (2a) follow with two points each.  Russell Maxwell (2a) leads the Hurricanes in points against the Hitmen this season, while 11 other Lethbridge players have also recorded one point versus Calgary.  During the 2011-12 campaign, the Hitmen held a 3-2-1-0 record against the ‘Canes.  Over the last five seasons, Calgary is 17-8-2-0 against Lethbridge, including an 8-3-2-0 road record.  

SERIES RECAP
Nov.20/12 at Let: Hitmen 3 Hurricanes 2 ... Chris Driedger made a season-high 42 saves in the Hitmen net.
Nov.21/12 at Cal: Hitmen 3 Hurricanes 2 ... Jake Virtanen tallied the game-winning goal with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
Dec.28/12 at Cal: Hurricanes 2 Hitmen 1 ... Brooks Macek scored Calgary’s lone marker as the Hitmen outshot the ‘Canes 35-27.

INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: Cal 106  Let 85   
Power Plays: Cal 1-13 (7.6%)  Let 2-19 (10.5 %)   
Next Meeting: Fri., Jan. 25 at Lethbridge, 7PM

HITMEN TEAM LEADERS:     
Goals (20) Cody Sylvester                 
Assists (25) Brooks Macek               
Points (41) Brooks Macek
Power Play Goals (9) Cody Sylvester     
PIM (75) Kenton Helgesen    
Plus-Minus (+19) B. Brassart, B. Macek     
Wins (18) Chris Driedger

HOME-AND-HOMES: Tonight the Hitmen wrap up a home-and-home set against the Hurricanes, marking the sixth home-and-home series Calgary has played this year. Last season, the Hitmen only played two home-and-home sets, winning all four contests against the Broncos and Ice.  Calgary has won 9-of-11 games involved in home-and-homes this season and will play one more set, with the next home-and-home series on Mar. 15-16 against the Kootenay Ice.

DECEMBER DIGITS:  The top point producer this month is overage forward Brooks Macek with five goals and eight assists for 13 points over 10 contests. Following him is Brady Brassart (2g, 9a) with 11 points in 10 games and Cody Sylvester (4g, 6a) with 10 points over the same span.

ROSTER ADDITION: Defenceman Ben Thomas, selected by the Hitmen in the third round, 45th overall, in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, has been added to the roster.  The 16-year-old Calgary product has recorded three points (2g, 1a) over 22 games with the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs and Calgary Canucks this season.

GOING INTERNATIONAL: Calgary is without the services of Victor Rask who is with Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.  The Carolina Hurricanes prospect has recorded one game-winning shootout goal and one assist over three games played at the tournament. The Hitmen will also be without rookies Jake Virtanen and Josh Thrower, playing for Team Pacific at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Dec. 29, 2012 to Jan. 4, 2013 in Victoriaville/Drummondville, Quebec.  Last night, Virtanen scored one goal in exhibition action as Team USA dealt Team Pacific a 6-2 decision.  Team Pacific plays Team Russia tonight at the Centre Marcel Dionne in Drummondville (7:30 p.m. ET).  

MAC’S TOURNAMENT:  There are six Hitmen prospects playing in the 35th annual Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament in Calgary.  The list includes four Hitmen picks from the 2011 and 2012 WHL Bantam Drafts, including the club’s top two selections in 2012: Prince Albert Mintos (2) Lochlan Morrison (1997 Defenceman), Ryan Duret (1996 Forward);  Saskatoon Contacts (1) Terrell Draude (1997 Forward); Tisdale Trojans (2) Brennan Riddle (1997 Defenceman), Matt Foster (1995 Defenceman); and Winnipeg Wild (1) Evan Johnson (1996 Goalie).

MILESTONE WATCH: Chris Driedger is six games away from his 100th career WHL contest, while Brendan Hurley is seven games shy of his 200th.

NHL PROSPECTS:  Chris Driedger (Ottawa 2012); Kenton Helgesen (Anaheim 2012); Jaynen Rissling (Washington 2012); Alex Roach (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Los Angeles 2011); Victor Rask (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Carolina 2011).

UPCOMING GAMES: The Hitmen will now visit the Kootenay Ice for a game on New Year’s Eve, before returning to the Scotiabank Saddledome to host the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday, Jan. 2, with a 7 p.m. puck drop.  The Hitmen will also face the Moose Jaw Warriors (Jan. 4) and Vancouver Gaints (Jan. 6), before heading east on a four-game road swing.

Mon., Dec. 31 at Kootenay Ice, 5 p.m., SN 960 The FAN    
Wed., Jan. 2 vs. Brandon Wheat Kings, 7 p.m., SN 960 The FAN