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Eskimos look to get tough

IROQUOIS FALLS - The Abitibi Eskimos waived good bye Tuesday to forward Daniel Nicholas and put out the welcome mat for forward Shawn Nobes.

Nobes, a 19-year-old Kingston native, was obtained by the Eskimos from the Cole Harbour Colts, of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League.

“This kid will bring a little toughness that we need,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.

“We have been soft the last few games here and I just don’t like it. We need a little bit more toughness.

“Hopefully, it will rub off on some other players, also.”

In five games with the Colts, the 6-0, 194-pound Nobes racked up 42 minutes in penalties, to go along with a goal and a pair of assists.

During the 2013-14 season, Nobes spent time with three Greater Metro Junior ‘A’ Hockey League teams — the Bracebridge Phantoms (11, 0-0-0, 14), the South Muskoka Shield (20, 3-2-5, 38) and the Meaford Knights (10, 0-0-0, 6).

With an even 100 minutes in penalties and five goals in a little less than a season and a half, it is clear Nobes’ role with the Eskimos won’t be putting the puck in the net.

An inability to put the puck in the net, or set up linemates on a consistent basis is what cost Nicholas his job with the Eskimos.

“He is an import and imports should not be playing on the third or fourth lines,” Gagne said.

“He is a kid who played high school hockey last year and he needs to work on his speed a little bit more and his quickness.

“He worked hard and he is a great kid. He had a great attitude, but the production just wasn’t there. He was losing a lot of ice time because of it.”

In 10 games with the Eskimos, the 19-year-old Nicholas scored just one goal and picked up one minor penalty.

A Las Vegas, NV, native, he spent last season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy Black, of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.

The addition of Nobes and the deletion of Nicholas are just the latest in a series of moves the Eskimos have made in an attempt to end a slump that has seen them lose four-straight games in regulation.

Prior to a pair of weekend losses, the Eskimos acquired forward Patrick Picard from the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and signed goalie Tyler Lesschaeve, who had spent a week with the Crunch before Cochrane acquired goalie Ben Auger from the Powassan Voodoos.

Picard picked up an assist in the second of the two weekend games — a 5-4 loss in Mattawa — while Lesschaeve got the start in net against the Blackhawks and gave up three goals on 26 shots before getting the hook 25 seconds into the third period.

The Eskimos will be looking to end their losing skid when they welcome the Blackhawks to the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night for a rematch.

What does the team need to do to achieve that goal?

“I hate to say it, but we have to get back to basics,” Gagne said.

“We worked on basics in scrimmage last night with a lot of structure. The whistle was blown every time there was an error, or mistake and we corrected it.

“Everything that we have implemented (since the start of the year) had to be redone and it was an eye-opener yesterday, because there was a lot of whistle blowing.

“That is going to be our theme all week, getting back to the basics and not taking anything for granted.”

The Eskimos have demonstrated that when the players stick to the program they are capable of beating anybody in the league (2-1 wins on home ice against Kirkland Lake and Cochrane and 5-2 win on the road against Elliot Lake).

When they don’t, however, they appear like a team that would have difficulty beating even the winless Blind River Beavers (back-to-back 9-3 and 10-3 losses to the Crunch).

“There is no magic potion here,” Gagne said.

“It is just basic hockey. We just have to play within our program and we will be successful.”

The Eskimos will once again be without one of their top blue-liners, Jamey Lauzon, Saturday night against the Blackhawks.

Gagne is hopeful, however, that defenceman Michael Rancourt might be able to return to the lineup.

“I am hoping he is going to be OK, he was OK yesterday (in practice),” Gagne said.

Goalie Braddock Baalerud, who has been battling a knee issue, practiced Tuesday night, but his status for Saturday night’s game remains unclear.

The Eskimos still have three goalies on the roster, with Chet Tooker and Lesschaeve available, if Baalerud is unavailable.

“His health comes first and we won’t throw him to the wolves right away,” Gagne said.

The Blackhawks, who started the season off with 10-straight losses, have a pair of wins and a double-overtime loss (a game in which they came within 23 seconds of upsetting the Soo Thunderbirds) in their past five games.