Giants cut down to size by in­juries

Coach McKee forced to tighten up play and adopt a sim­pler game un­til reg­u­lars re­turn

The Province - - SPORTS | HOCKEY - NICK PROCAYLO STEVE EWEN sewen@post­ Twit­

’We are play­ing to get points here,’ says Giants head coach Ja­son McKee. ‘We have to play a cer­tain way. We know that with the sit­u­a­tion we are in. I think our guys will buy into that.’

The fast-paced, fun-lov­ing Van­cou­ver Giants are on hold for the time be­ing, it would seem.

With Van­cou­ver miss­ing six reg­u­lars to in­jury or ill­ness as of Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Giants coach Ja­son McKee is preach­ing a sim­pler, more sta­tion-to-sta­tion game to his play­ers.

“We’ve talked about it and we know the sit­u­a­tion we are in and we’re go­ing to have to play a cer­tain style,” said McKee.

“We are go­ing to have to be real re­spon­si­ble in all ar­eas, all guys. We are play­ing to get points here. We have to play a cer­tain way. We know that with the sit­u­a­tion we are in. I think our guys will buy into that.”

McKee has been push­ing for an up­tempo, of­fen­sive-minded ap­proach this sea­son to take ad­van­tage of the Giants’ puck-mov­ing defence. Van­cou­ver went into a Wed­nes­day game at the Port­land Win­ter­hawks miss­ing at least three reg­u­lar rear­guards, though, with Dar­ian Skeoch (up­per body in­jury), Matt Bar­beris (up­per body in­jury) and Dy­lan Plouffe (lower body in­jury) all side­lined. A fourth blue­liner, Alex Kan­nok Leipert (lower body in­jury), was listed as doubt­ful.

That meant the Giants are ex­pected to rely on call-ups Joel Sex­smith and Parker Hen­dren to round out their defence corps for the time be­ing.

Giants gen­eral man­ager Glen Han­lon is hope­ful that both Skeoch and Kan­nok Leipert will be back Fri­day, when Van­cou­ver is home to the Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings.

Even with that, this re­mains a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult stretch for Van­cou­ver, con­sid­er­ing they are at the Vic­to­ria Roy­als on Satur­day (7 p.m., TSN 1410) and then back at the LEC on Sun­day (4 p.m., TSN 1040) to face the Red Deer Rebels.

Van­cou­ver is try­ing to nail down its first play­off berth in four sea­sons and pos­si­bly home ice ad­van­tage for the first round. Go­ing into Wed­nes­day ac­tion, Van­cou­ver (2918-5-3) was six points in back of the Vic­to­ria Roy­als (34-20-3-1) for sec­ond spot in the B.C. Divi­sion, with

three games in hand.

They were also 10 points up on the fourth-place Kam­loops Blaz­ers (2626-1-3) with a game in hand.

The top three teams from the B.C. and U.S. divi­sions make the Western Con­fer­ence play­offs, along with two wild cards. The sec­ond-place team in B.C. has home ice ad­van­tage in the first round.

Find­ing ways to get points with an in­jury-de­pleted lineup will ob­vi­ously help that cause.

“The big­gest thing is play­ing sim­ple,” Van­cou­ver for­ward Daw­son Holt said of this stretch. “We can’t turn pucks over and give teams easy of­fence. It’s not the pret­ti­est game. It’s not end to end. But it works.”

Plouffe and Bar­beris are ex­pected to be side­lined into next week at the very least, as are cen­tres Mi­los Ro­man (an­kle) and Owen Hardy (ill­ness). Ro­man, who had missed 12 straight games go­ing into Wed­nes­day, is slated to be­gin skat­ing again on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Han­lon, and the hope is he’s ready to go again two weeks af­ter that.

Ro­man had been Van­cou­ver’s No. 1 cen­tre for much of the sea­son.

Van­cou­ver had been rel­a­tively healthy prior to the Ro­man in­jury. Winger Tyler Ben­son (off-sea­son sports her­nia surg­eries) missed the first 12 games and de­fence­man Bai­ley Dhali­wal (shoul­der surgery) had his sea­son shut down in Oc­to­ber.

In pre­vi­ous sea­sons, the Giants strug­gled with long-term med­i­cal is­sues. For in­stance, Ben­son played just 63 games in his sec­ond and third sea­sons com­bined as a Gi­ant af­ter play­ing 62 as a rookie in 2014-15, and winger Ty Ron­ning was lim­ited to just 24 games in that cam­paign, his sopho­more sea­son.

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