Following A Shaky Start, Maybe It’s Miller’s Time
Aren Miller is the first to admit that he’s been anything but sharp in the Spokane Chiefs’ Western Hockey League West Division quarterfinal series with the Kelowna Rockets.
He was especially vulnerable in his third start Wednesday night in Kelowna, where he was yanked in the second period of a 5-2 loss.
Although Chiefs coach Mike Babcock will shuffle his lines tonight at 7:05 in Game 4 in the Arena, he’ll stick with Miller in net.
Miller, who signed with NHL Detroit Red Wings last week, has yet to put together three strong periods in this best-of-7 series that Kelowna leads two games to one.
Maybe the worst is over.
Maybe the fourth time’s the charm.
David Haun, who got stronger as the game wore on in mop-up duty in Kelowna Wednesday night, is the only other option in net.
Watch Babcock explore his options in front of the net tonight.
“We’ve tried to be patient, but it’s time to make some changes,” he said Thursday, referring to his ineffective special teams and the strange slump of his top two lines.
Without going into detail, Babcock said, “We’ll change our lines a bit and see what happens.
“It’s still a series,” he said.
It won’t be if the puck continues to bounce as it has.
“We haven’t had a lot of bounces go our way, but ever notice that the team that works the hardest gets the bounces?” the coach said.
Spokane’s lineup will be strengthened by the return of defenseman Kyle Rossiter, who missed a month and a half with a shoulder separation. Rossiter’s size and savvy won’t hurt a team that needs a jump start.
Rockets coach Pete Anholt will probably start Chris Noble in goal, although Jordan Watt won both games in Kelowna. Noble played well enough in a 4-3 overtime loss here.
As for reacting to changes in Spokane’s lineup, Anholt said matchups can be overrated.
“If they want to leave a player like Greg Leeb on the bench as much as they have, that’s fine with me,” Anholt said in his pregame chat Wednesday night with Chiefs broadcaster Craig West.
The scoring leader in this series is Kelowna’s Luke Curtin, who has four goals and four assists. Next is Rockets defenseman Scott Hannan - arguably the most valuable player in the series through the first three games - with six points… . Trent Whitfield leads the Chiefs with four. … The Chiefs are waiting for Ty Jones, a Rockets killer in the regular season, to step up. Jones has yet to score a goal and has but one assist in three games… . Notice players falling all over the Arena in Tuesday night’s Game 2? Blame the ice. Anholt called the Arena ice surface in that game “as bad as I’ve seen in my coaching career.” … Kelowna defenseman Lloyd Swanson, plagued by a hip pointer, was replaced Wednesday night by 15-year-old Dave Selthun, who late in the game had a shift at the point of the Rockets’ power play.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo