The Prince George Spruce Kings are on a big road trip this week, and coach Dave Dupas isn’t underselling the importance of it.
“When you’re trying to catch teams ahead of you,” he said Monday, “you want to be playing them because it gives you a chance to catch up faster. You win, they lose. If you’re playing different teams, even if you win your game, they might win theirs, and you don’t make up any ground.”
The Kings opened the three-game swing in Langley Thursday night, then play Chillwack tonight (Friday) and Surrey on Saturday. While the Eagles are last in the Mainland Division, Dupas isn’t taking Surrey lightly in the final game.
“They’re a fast team, they have a big ice surface, and playing them the third game in three days means we could be chasing them around a lot.
“They’re also the type of team that seems to play everybody tough. They’ve been in a lot of close games this year, and they just don’t seem to have the scoring they need to win some of those games.”
The Eagles proved that last week at the Coliseum, dropping a pair of one-goal decisions to the Spruce Kings. Dupas said Friday’s 4-3 win showed something the Kings are going to have to work on down the stretch.
“The three goals they got probably didn’t travel more than two feet combined. They were tap-ins. We can’t afford to let that happen in the playoffs against a better team.”
The Kings are still going with just five defencemen because of injuries, and Dupas said it’s been a trial by fire for some f the younger players.
“You’d like your younger guys to only play maybe 10 to 12 minutes a game, with the older players getting the bulk of the minutes, but we can’t do that right now. The younger guys are playing 20-plus minutes a game, and they’re still not used to that at this level.”
All four of the Spruce Kings goals on Friday came from the line of Jeremiah Luedtke, Chad Staley and Michael Buonincontri, a line Dupas says was sort of thrown together.
“Jake (LeBrun) had been playing with Luedtke and (Braiden) Epp, and that was a good line, but then Jake got hurt. We’re hoping to have him back this week, so we’ll see what happens.
“For now, we’ll probably keep the line the way it is.”
Going into Thursday’s game, the Spruce Kings were third in the Mainland Division with 48 points. Chilliwack had 56 points, one more than Langley. Coquitlam is seven points behind Prince George.
The next home games for the Spruce Kings are Feb. 6 and 7 when they host the Coquitlam Express.