TIMMINS – The Abitibi Eskimos haven’t played a regular season game in nearly two weeks when they suit up against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for two games this weekend.
The Eskimos and Gold Miners kick off a home and away series on Friday in Kirkland Lake, followed by a game Saturday at the Jus Jordan Arena.
For details on Friday’s game, check out www.timminspress.com.
Abitibi is chasing Kirkland Lake who currently sit in fourth place in the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League standings.
The season series is tilted in favour of the Gold Miners who have posted a record of 4-1 (before Friday) against the Eskimos.
The last time these two clubs met, prior to Friday’s game, the Gold Miners defeated the Eskimos 7-5 in Kirkland Lake on Dec. 16.
Since then, the Eskimos have lost leading scorer and former captain Richard Therrien.
The change forced the Eskimos to adapt their tactics on the ice leading up to this weekend.
“(At practice) we worked on an aggressive forecheck,” said Eskimos head coach and general manger Paul Gagne. “We worked on being aggressive when we lose faceoffs with the rational being you have to put more pressure on their defence. If we’re able to do that, then we can force some turnovers and generate some offence that way.”
The club also put some emphasis on improving their powerplay and penalty killing units, but mostly it was about a higher level of intensity.
Despite the long layoff between games, Gagne and the coaching staff aren’t worried about it being a factor come gametime.
“It (the layoff) was an issue,” said Gagne. “We started off on Tuesday with an intense practice and we worked on their conditioning. We wanted to get their mind’s going. That was our focus and they did step up in practice, their intensity was high and everybody was involved. They’re young men who understand they need to be focused.”
Newest acquisition Wyatt Trumbley, who came over from the Napean Raiders in exchange for Therrien, hasn’t played a game yet for the Eskimos and he is expected to be in the lineup Friday and Saturday.
Trumbley spent time on the second defensive pairing with veteran Keeley Cummings.
“He’s gotten a little impatient,” said Trumbley. “He’s been here for a while and hasn’t played yet. He’s a good stay-at-home defenceman who makes his presence felt on the ice. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”
Trumbley has been compared to former NHLer Jean Ratelle who played centre with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
“He skates with grace and he handles himself,” said Gagne. “He reminds me of Jean Ratell back in the 70’s. He was so smooth and graceful out there. It was nice to see.”
Jeremy Laux will get the start in net for the Eskimos on Friday and possibly Saturday as Jackson Winkler still isn’t 100% ready to return to game action.
Forward Peter Poulin-Roy will be making his return to the lineup Friday after serving a four-game suspension.
The Eskimos have been dealing with the flu bug recently with several players feeling under the weather.
However, the focus of the club is on stringing together some wins over the final two months of the season.
“We want to play the game we should be playing, but bottom line I want us to get on a roll here,” said Gagne. “Our objective is to start winning more games than losing. If we start playing some great hockey and having fun, then the rest will take care of itself. The points will accumulate.”
Saturday’s game time is 7:30 p.m.