KENNEWICK – After two preseason tournaments, Spokane coach Bill Peters has seen what he needs to see of prospects who want to make the Western Hockey League team.
After Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Giants at Three Rivers Coliseum, he said cut-down day will be Tuesday after the coaches and players enjoy a day off.
“It was a good weekend, because there was more structure to our game than there was in Everett,” Peters said. “Now we’ve got guys filtering back from pro camp and we’ve got to plug guys into spots, but the picture’s become pretty clear to me where guys fit into this team.
“Some guys have shown up, and competed, and looked like they want to be here, while others haven’t given enough effort to be a Spokane Chief.”
Jim Watt went the distance in goal for Spokane and pitched a shutout for nearly two full periods after his team fell behind 3-1.
“I was happy with the effort, but not happy with the result,” Peters said, as Spokane’s exhibition record fell to 3-2.
Veterans Chad Klassen and Jeff Lynch had the Chiefs’ goals. Spokane trailed 3-2 entering the third period and the line of Klassen, Lynch, and Ryan did their best to score down the stretch, but were denied.
Grabner, McCue come back strong
Michael Grabner’s hat trick Saturday was his first – but likely not his last.
The Austrian forward, one of three import players on the Chiefs roster, showed flashes of brilliance last season, but started out with a collarbone injury and never truly caught up.
He spent much of the off-season working out in Spokane due to a lack of available ice in his home country and came back in great condition.
The result is that his game has taken a step up from last season, where his quickness would put him in a position to score, but he had trouble finishing. That wasn’t the case against Tri-City. Two of his goals saw him outskating defenders to get the goalie one-on-one and burying it; his third was on a rebound of a Matt McCue slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play.
“I felt really good about it, but we’ve all worked hard and it was a team effort,” Grabner said. “That one goal would normally go to McCue, but I saw it and I was there so I put it in.”
McCue is coming back from a devastating ankle injury and has looked good. His shots from the point have improved and he has been more physical, hitting hard and taking out opponents with his fists in both games this weekend.
On Sunday he took himself out of the game for the final two periods, earning an automatic game misconduct (for preseason fighting) after pummeling Vancouver’s Garet Hunt. That left the Chiefs with only four remaining defensemen and forward J.P. Szaszkiewicz had to help out on the blue line.
Coach wants more active offense
The Chiefs offense is more active so far this preseason, but they’re still not active enough to please their coach.
“We’ve talked about it as a team – our goal is to take 10, 15 shots per period and we’re not doing that,” Peters said. “Maybe we’re not in good enough shape and that’s why our shots taper off as the game goes on. We’ve got to take the puck to the net and we’ve got to score by committee.”
Two players aren’t having that problem. With six veteran players off at NHL training camps, Derek Ryan (two assists) and Kyle Howarth (two goals) were particularly lethal against Tri-City as linemates.
Ryan set up Howarth on his first goal by drawing the goalie to the left, then passing it to a wide-open Howarth in the right slot. Howarth’s second goal came as he used some stellar stick work to get past a Tri-City defender and beat the goalie low. Ryan’s slippery moves and shot on goal earned him an assist on a Szaskiewicz rebound goal.
Tickets on sale today
Individual game tickets go on sale today at the Chiefs office on the southeast corner of the Spokane Arena and at all TicketsWest outlets.
Spokane’s home opener is Oct. 1 versus the Tri-City Americans. For more information: 535-PUCK or 1-800-325-SEAT.
Tickets are on sale for the Chiefs’ final exhibition game, Friday versus Tri-City at Eagles Ice-A-Rena, at the Chiefs’ office or at the Ice-A-Rena.
Giants 3, Chiefs 2
First period: 1, Van, Czibere (Egener) 3:57; 2, Spo, Klassen (Bowman, McCue) 10:49; 3, Van, Lamb (Machacek) 15:32. Second period: 4, Van, Rutherford :15; 5, Spo, Je Lynch (Klassen, Ryan) 4:16. Third period: None. Goalies – Vancouver: Tartaglione; Spokane: Watt.
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