It will be business as usual for the Red Deer Rebels when they conclude their WHL regular-season schedule this weekend with a home-and-home set with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Rebels, who host the non-playoff Oil Kings Saturday and are in the provincial capital Sunday for a 4 p.m. contest, have locked down third spot in the Central Division with no chance of moving up or down in the standings.
Red Deer will face the Lethbridge Hurricanes in an opening-round playoff series starting Saturday, March 25 on the road and with his team on a four-game winning streak, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter wants to maintain the status quo while using the next two outings as tune-ups for the post season.
“Nothing changes, we have to keep our focus and stay with our game (against the Oil Kings),” Sutter said Friday.
“We don’t want to drop our guard at all. We worked hard to put ourselves in a situation where we know who our (first-round) playoff opponent is now. We wanted to finish in the top three of the division and that was accomplished and now it’s (about) getting ready for playoffs.
“We want to make sure we do things the right way. We have a younger team and we don’t want them to take things for granted and all of a sudden some bad habits start to creep in.”
Austin Pratt is expected to play this weekend after sitting out the last two games with an upper-body injury and fellow Red Deer forward Cam Hausinger could also return from an upper-body ailment after missing four contests.
Meanwhile, centre Adam Musil remains out week-to-week with a lower-body injury and winger Reese Johnson is skating during practice but won’t be cleared for full contest until the first or second week of April.
Notable: The Rebels individual season awards will be presented prior to Saturday’s game and a fireworks presentation — sponsored by Bruin’s Plumbing and Heating and Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning — will follow the contest . . . The second game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final will go Sunday, March 26 in Lethbridge. The series will then shift to the Centrium for Games 3 and 4 Wednesday and Thursday, March 29-30. Additional games, if necessary, will be played at Lethbridge Saturday, April 1, Sunday, April 2 in Red Deer and back in the southern Alberta city Tuesday, April 4.
Rebels vs. Edmonton Oil Kings; Saturday, 7 p.m., Centrium
Edmonton owns a record of 21-43-5-1 and sits fifth in the Central Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Oil Kings, a non-playoff team, were 3-2 overtime winners in their last game — Tuesday on the road versus the Kootenay Ice — and are 1-8-1-0 in their last 10 . . . RW Davis Koch leads all Edmonton offensive producers with 21 goals and 66 points. RW Trey Fix-Wolansky is the club’s top sniper with 23 goals and has racked up 53 points. LW Tyler Robertson (15-19-34) and RW Colton Kehler (17-15-32) have each cracked the 30-point barrier . . . Patrick Dea is 28th among WHL goaltenders with a 3.87 goals-against average. His win-loss record is 18-31-2 and the St. Albert product, who turned 20 on Tuesday, has recorded one shutout.
Injuries: Edmonton — LW Ty Gerla (upper body, one week), C Brett Kemp (upper body, indefinite), D Wyatt McLeod (upper body, indefinite), LW Davis Murray (lower body, day-to-day), LW Riley Stadel (upper body, day-to-day). Red Deer — D Alexander Alexeyev (lower body, indefinite), RW Cam Hausinger (upper body, day-to-day), RW Reese Johnson (upper body, indefinite), C Adam Musil (lower body, week-to-week), LW Grayson Pawlenchuk (lower body, indefinite).
Special teams: Edmonton — Power play 17.4 per cent, 18th overall; penalty kill 75.4 per cent, 18th. Red Deer — Power play 20.6 per cent, 11th overall; penalty kill 76.3 per cent, 17th.