KAMLOOPS — The Blazers head into Wednesday night's game against Spokane like it's a playoff game, and in the big picture it may very well be. They trail the Chiefs by seven points for the final wildcard spot with 20 games to go and don't have much more time to waste.
"I think it's the playoff mentality and the game that you're playing is the most important game," said head coach Don Hay. "Whether it's game one or game seven, at that time they're important. So this is an important game for us."
The Blazers have matched up well against the Chiefs this season, although Dylan Ferguson has a lot to say about that. Ferguson made 47 saves in a 2-1 win at home last month following a 3-2 shootout win in Spokane in October.
"We're prepared to play against them. We had success against them last game, but I thought our goalie was our best player," noted Hay. "We have to provide a little more offense and be prepared. They're a good team right now. They're playing at their best and we have to play one of our best games of the season."
Spokane comes in having won five of its last seven games, although snapped a two-game losing streak last Friday in Cranbrook. The players know the challenge that's ahead.
"They play with a lot of speed, really good transition team," said Blazers defenseman Joe Gatenby. "For us, you don't want to give them anything easy. They're similar to Portland in that sense. They have some high-end skill and their defenseman like to jump in the play."
The Blazers, who were sellers at trade deadline in shipping away Garrett Pilon and Ondrej Vala to Everett, haven't given up on the season quite yet, and it starts with the mentality of coach Hay and the leadership group.
"When they moved out Pilon and Ondrej, those are obviously two really kep players to us, we wanted to have guys step up, and I know myself and some of the older guys around here with Chyz (captain Nick Chyzowski), the 20 year olds, we really wanted to have success the rest of the season," said Gatenby. "We still do, so this last 20 games is going to be a huge push for us."
Seven points behind Spokane and now nine points behind Seattle going into the night, the Blazers know they have an uphill climb to make the playoffs.
"You have to look at about 28 points, so that's 14 wins. That's two wins every three games," noted Hay. "I don't know if that's possible, but that's what the math is telling me it's going to take to get in."
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