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Eskimos need victory

Abitibi Eskimos will have some reinforcements in the lineup as they look to get back in their best-of-seven NOJHL Eastern Division semi-final series with the North Bay Trappers Thursday at the Jus Jordan Arena.   Defenseman Karl Spenard, the team’s fifth leading scorer during the regular season will make his series debut in Game 3, after recovering from a lower-body injury.   His 12 goals and 32 assists should provide a boost to an already-effective power play. In addition, the Eskimos will also dress five more affiliate players for the critical contest.   Three Kapuskasing Flyers — forwards Marc Dube, who led the Great North Midget League in scoring with 33 goals and 48 assists, and Brennan Nesrallah, along with defenseman Brandon Plourde — will be joined by New Liskeard Cubs forward Trevor MacDonald and defensemen Chad Lemire in the Abitibi lineup.   Timmins Majors defensemen Ryan Kerr, who has played in the first two playoff losses against North Bay, will also remain in the lineup.   Forwards Jake Ryan and Jacob Kord and defensemen Kevin Walker, who were all injured in Sunday’s game in North Bay, won’t play on Thursday.   Neither will defensemen Kealey Cummings and forwards Chris Gartner and Troy Columbus, who are also injured, and forward Preston Lacasse, who will be serving the third game of the four-game suspension he picked up in the final regular season contest.   Despite the lineup flux, coach and general manager Paul Gagne remains optimistic. “We haven’t even played that well and we took them to overtime in two games,” he said. “So, for me, that’s a positive. We played better in the second game than in the first game.   “Now we are going to have a full squad. We only had eight forwards for half the game last Sunday.   “We had injuries, so now we are going to bring in five affiliates. It will give us energy and we will be able to roll four lines.”   The Trappers have been relatively successful in shutting down the Eskimos leading scorer Marc-Alain Begin during the first two games of the series, but that has only allowed his line mates more space to operate.   “Our first line has been producing,” Gagne said. “I am not worried about that.   “(Eskimos captain Richard) Therrien has been on fire because of it.” Therrien is seventh in league scoring in the playoffs, with three goals and an assist through the first two games of the series.   Gagne doesn’t have any plans to employ a similar tactic against the Trappers’ top forwards, such as North Bay captain Brad Gehl who scored three times against the Eskimos Sunday — including the game-winning goal in overtime.   “If we did that we would just have one guy stand beside him in the crease and the guy could play for 60 minutes,” Gagne said.   “The kid just goes to the net and stops there. He scored three goals a foot from in front of the goal line. It was just one of those nights he got lucky, to score three goals.   “He’s not dominant, or anything like that, we just need to pay attention to his stick. That’s all, we don’t have to take the body, just take the stick and he can’t score goals.”   Sixteen-year-old Danny Desrochers is another Trapper who has found his offensive game in the first two games of the playoffs.   “He’s a kid that could have easily been rookie of the year this year and I don’t know why he’s not,” Gagne said.   “He’s a great player and played part of the year for the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) and that line has really done well. They are playing some great hockey.”   The key for the Eskimos to find the victory column and turn the series around does not rest with players in the North Bay lineup, however.   “If we start paying attention to the details that are supposed to be done on the ice, and that’s what I mean about mistakes, it will make a difference,” Gagne said.   “The onus is on our players to pay attention.” Another key will be keeping their players out of the penalty box — especially the team’s top penalty killers, including Delmer Moses.   Game time for Thursday’s contest is 7:30 p.m. Game 4 will be played in North Bay on Friday night.