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A look at WHL’s Central Division

Continuing the team-by-team look at the Western Hockey League, which begins play on Friday, we check out the Central Division, courtesy of the beat reporters (except Edmonton). The Central Division visits the U.S. Division this year, meaning Spokane Chiefs fans can see what remains of Calgary’s championship team (and early visit, Wednesday, Oct. 20).

Cowen, Senators win big

Spokane Chiefs captain Jared Cowen wasn’t mentioned individually but everyone got a pat on the back after Ottawa opened the NHL exhibition season with a 5-0 thrashing of Toronto. There is this Ottawa Citizen blog comment - and by the way, Cowen is wearing No. 2.

Hopefully today there will be some information on the other two Chiefs who have not returned from pro camps, Tyler Johnson (Minnesota) and Blake Gal (Philadelphia). Otherwise, check back for our Central Division capsules later today and our first story on the Chiefs building up to Saturday’s opener at Tri-City.

And an FYI - Spokane is the only team that will not appear on one of the WHL-Shaw TV broadcasts, as broken down on Alan Caldwell’s blog, which, by the way, points out the league’s website, and therefore the teams’ websites, a new look rolled out recently, is woefully lacking at the moment.

WHL E. Division preview

The Spokane Chiefs make the long trek through the Eastern Division of the Western Hockey League early this season - starting the last weekend of November. It could be a difficult journey with stops in Brandon and Moose Jaw - which is in the final season of its old “Crushed Can” arena, but Regina and Saskatoon aren’t expected to be very strong.

Below is the team-by-team report, as shared by WHL beat writers.

Cowen focused at Senators’ camp

It appears Jared Cowen will start the season - well, at least the Western Hockey League season - in the National Hockey League.

The Spokane Chiefs captain, Ottawa’s No. 1 draft pick in 2009, has moved up the ladder in the Senator’s training camp because of an early injury. That information comes from Greg Drinnan’s blog and is posted below. Cowen can play nine regular-season games with the Senators, who play their first preseason game tonight, before he has to stay up as a 19-year old. Cowen is expected to at least be with Ottawa for all eight of the Sens’ preseason games, which go through Oct. 2, which is the date of the Chiefs’ home-opener.

And just like that, the Chiefs are down two defensemen since Brenden Kichton was injured while in Detroit’s camp.

I am currently in the process of putting together the short scouting reports the WHL beat writers have put together. They’ll appear here this week, starting with the Eastern Division today, finishing up with the U.S. Division on Friday when the WHL opens. Check back later today.

Chiefs off to Tri-City next

Not sure how to spell exactly what Spokane Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said about his first trip back to Tri-City.

True, it’s only an exhibition game - or games, Thursday vs. Lethbridge, Saturday vs. the Americans - but his response was, “Arg.” Sounded a lot like a Pirate.

For the rest of his response, check out the notebook that also takes a look back at the first three exhibition games of the Nachbaur era.

I would also like to direct you to Gregg Drinnan’s blog to find out how an OHL team ended up at the Everett tournament last weekend.

Chiefs reassign four players

After four days of training camp, capped by the intrasquad game on Sunday, the Spokane Chiefs sent half of the 70 players home.

After two more days of practice they reassigned four more players, which means 31 players are headed for three games in three days at Everett beginning Friday afternoon.


Chiefs win, lose in shoot-out

Returning players make a good showing as the Spokane Chiefs wrapped up training camp with their Red-White scrimmage. All six goals were scored by veterans before the Western Hockey League team decided the game, played before more than 2,600 fans, at the Arena Sunday afternoon. Click here for the story.

Chief veterans ready to step up

A couple of Spokane Chiefs veterans know there are opportunities to play a big role in the upcoming Western Hockey League season but they also know they have to earn the opportunity. The story is here.


Nachbaur ready for first Chiefs’ camp

Don Nachbaur has many years of service in the Western Hockey League as a player and coach but heading into his first training camp as coach of the Spokane Chiefs he’s wiping the slate clean for all players. Here is the story.

Chiefs open camp Thursday

The Spokane Chiefs veterans are in town and going through fitness testing as we write. Rookies report Wednesday and the Western Hockey League team’s training camp begins Thursday. The Red-White game is Sunday afternoon at 1. (As soon as I get the rosters I’ll post or link them.)

To celebrate the return of hockey, a couple of notes on former Chiefs are below.

Spokane Chiefs to play outdoor game

The Spokane Chiefs will become the second Western Hockey League team to announce an outdoor game for the 2010-11 season but it will be the first outdoor game for the league. They also made a trade on Tuesday. Read more here.

Nachbaur will coach Chiefs

The Spokane Chiefs will have a press conference at the Arena this afternoon to introduce veteran Western Hockey League coach Don Nachbaur as their new coach, according sources. Read story here.

One source said the Chiefs would give the former Tri-City and Seattle coach an unprecedented five-year contract.

Chiefs draft forward from Czech Republic

The Spokane Chiefs selected Marek Kalus of Czech Republic in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward turns 17 on July 22.

The Chiefs had the 49th draft pick.

Kalus joins 18-year-old forward Dominik Uher, also from the Czech Republic, as one of Spokane’s two import players, the maximum allowed on a CHL roster

In 46 games this past season with HC Trinec in the Czech Republic, Kalus scored 20 goals and 41 points. He also appeared in five games for the Czech club at the under 17 World Hockey Challenge in January.

Marek is the younger brother of Petr Kalus, a former Regina Pat and second-round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2005.

Johnson makes Team USA

Spokane Chiefs forward Tyler Johnson made the USA Hockey 22-player roster the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010, in Saskatoon and Regina, Sask. Click here for the press release.

Feisty Chiefs beat Ice

The Spokane Chiefs haven’t tried doing things the easy way very often this year.

This time, however, it didn’t cost them. Spokane gave up the game’s first goal for the seventh time in nine games Saturday night, but the Chiefs responded with three consecutive goals to secure a 3-1 victory over Kootenay in a Western Hockey League showdown.

Click here for the game story.

Martin to start tonight

Goaltender Chase Martin will get his first career WHL start on Friday night when the Chiefs travel to Cranbrook, BC to take on the Kootenay Ice.

Chief gets suspended

Spokane Chiefs forward T.C. Cratsenberg, who received a match penalty against Tri-City in Saturday’s home opener, has been suspended for one game by the Western Hockey League.

Cratsenberg receives the suspension because of the match penalty, which was the result of pulling an opponents helmet off during a fight. The 17-year old forward got into a fight Tyler Schmidt in the third period. Both received 5-minute fighting majors but the Americans got a 5-minute power play out of the exchange.

It should also be noted that 16-year old rookie forward Mike Aviani was reassigned by the Chiefs. His No. 21 was given to newcomer Kyle Beach. For a few more notes, involving trades by U.S. Division teams and ex-Chiefs, read the extended entry.

Chiefs pick up Beach

The Spokane Chiefs have acquired forward Kyle Beach from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for defensemen Mike Reddington and Landon Oslanski. Beach was the Chicago Blackhawks first round draft selection, 11th overall, in 2008.

Short-handed Chiefs triumph

The stars were missing, but the effort, smarts and sacrifice weren’t.

It’s hard to say Spokane’s 4-2 Western Hockey League victory over the Tri-City Americans was unexpected on Saturday night – expect a little of everything in one of the WHL’s most rabid rivalries. But the fact that the Chiefs were playing without three of their top four scorers and regular goaltender Dustin Tokarski certainly made it an uphill skate.

But several young players rose to the occasion, the Chiefs kept their penalties to a minimum and got a strong defensive game to pull within three points of the lead in the U.S. Division.

Read on for an unedited version of the game story, plus a few web-only notes.