There are still more questions than answers relating to the Prince Albert Raiders’ opening day lineup ahead of the final two preseason games this weekend.
After re-assigning defenceman Kaiden Guhle and goaltender Josh Breznik Sunday, the Raiders now have 28 players in camp with 15 forwards, nine defencemen, and four goaltenders. By the start of the regular season on Friday, Sept. 22, the roster must be trimmed down to a maximum of 25 players.
Further complicating matters at this point are injuries to returning players, goaltender Nicholas Sanders and defenceman Max Martin. Neither player has appeared in a preseason contest so far.
“They’re close, they’re real close. Max is probably closer than Sanders, but they’re both well on their way,” Head Coach Marc Habscheid said. “They’re two veteran players that we could use in our lineup so when they’re ready, they’re ready, and we’ll welcome them back.”
The Sanders injury makes the goaltending position especially unclear as expected starter Ian Scott is currently with the Toronto Maple Leafs after taking part in a rookie tournament this past weekend. According to Habscheid, there is no word on when Scott will be returned to the Raiders.
This weekend, it was 19-year-old Curtis Meger getting the start on Friday night and 16-year-old Brett Balas minding the cage in Saturday’s rematch against the Saskatoon Blades. Meger earned the first start on Friday night, stopping 20 of 22 shots in a 3-2 victory including a show stopping save on Blades forward Chase Wouters.
As for Balas, he performed admirably despite being given a tough assignment in Warman as he faced an onslaught of 43 shots, stopping 38 in a 5-2 loss.
Asked who he expected to goaltend on opening night, Habscheid wasn’t willing to venture a guess.
“Scott will be back when he’s back, Sanders will be ready when he’s ready... I’ve learned always that if you have time, use it. We have some time and we’re going to use it, and usually things will fall into place as time goes on.”
After the re-assignment of Guhle on Sunday, Habscheid reflected glowingly on what he saw from the top three Raiders picks from the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, the other two being forwards Cohner Saleski and Ozzy Wiesblatt.
“I liked them. I think for one they’re all real good kids, and two they’re pretty good hockey players too.”
Speaking specifically about the first overall draft pick Guhle, who is the younger brother of former Raider Brendan Guhle, Habscheid admitted he had an advantage as there is already some familiarity between Kaiden, his family, and the Raiders coaching staff.
“He’s a talented kid, and more so it seems he has his head screwed on right.”
The Raiders will travel to Regina on Friday to take on the Pats before a rematch between the two teams to close out the preseason on Saturday night at the Art Hauser Centre. Both games will be broadcast live on 900 CKBI beginning at 7 p.m.
On Twitter: @nedderrovert
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