After enjoying a rest day Sunday and putting in some off-ice training on Monday, the Brandon Wheat Kings will skate this afternoon at Westman Place to begin their playoff preparations.
Coming off a critical season-ending sweep of the Regina Pats to clinch a WHL playoff spot by finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference, the Wheat Kings (34-29-6-3) will battle the East Division-champion Pats (39-26-4-3) again in a best-of-seven first-round series, beginning with Games 1 and 2 this Saturday and Sunday (8 p.m. CDT starts) at Regina’s Brandt Centre.
After struggling through a gruelling February schedule that sent a number of Brandon players to the injured list, the Wheat Kings hope to have all hands on deck for the playoffs, including scoring leader Jayce Hawryluk back after serving a four-game suspension.
"Heading into the final weekend of the regular season was the healthiest we had been since February 7th, so it was, I thought, a big help to get guys back in the lineup," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "And then of course, missing Jayce Hawryluk for the final four games, he will return to play, so we’re in as good of shape from a health standpoint and a rest standpoint as we have been for some time."
The Wheat Kings, who won five of the eight games in the season series with the Pats, will host Game 3 on Wednesday, March 26 at Westman Place (7 p.m.) and Game 4 on Friday, March 28 at Westman Place (7:30 p.m.). However, with the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair slated to take over the Keystone Centre from March 31 to April 5 and the Juno Awards taking Winnipeg’s MTS Centre out of play all next week, a location for a potential Game 6 ‘home’ game for the Wheat Kings on March 31 remains undetermined at this point.
"Our normal Plan B isn’t available, so we’re working on that and have been for a while," said McCrimmon, who earned his franchise-record 364th career victory in Brandon’s 6-3 triumph over Regina on Saturday night to move past Bob Lowes and become the Wheat Kings’ all-time winningest coach. "We’d like to finalize that as soon as possible."
ICINGS: The Wheat Kings hold the Saskatoon Blades’ first-round selection in Wednesday’s WHL bantam draft lottery for non-playoff teams and have a 19 per cent chance of landing the No.1 overall pick. In a swap of first-rounders resulting from the Brenden Walker trade to the Blades two years ago, Brandon will wind up picking either No.1, No.3 or No.4 this year ... The Wheat Kings have extended their early bird season ticket renewal deadline to Thursday at 5 p.m. In addition to the $50 price discount, season ticket purchasers will also receive free playoff tickets to Games 3 and 4 next week ... Individual playoff tickets for Brandon’s two home games will go on sale on Friday at the Keystone Centre box office at 11 a.m. ... Wheat Kings C Tim McGauley will begin the playoffs riding an eight-game point streak (3-8-11) ... Wheat Kings RW Peter Quenneville racked up five goals and seven points in his return to the lineup on the weekend after missing 10 games due to injury ... To book a spot on the planned Wheat Kings’ fan bus heading to Regina this weekend, call Brandon Bus Lines at 204-571-0231.