Gameday Preview: Prince Albert Raiders @ Brandon Wheat Kings

DUBNetwork Game of the Night: Prince Albert Raiders (31-16-5-4) @ Brandon Wheat Kings (31-20-3-2) 7:30 PM

The East Division is tight to say the least as the Prince Albert Raiders lead the way with 71 points and the fourth-place Saskatoon Blades have 63. The Brandon Wheat Kings fall in the middle with 67 points, good for third place. All four of the top teams in the East Division have played 56 of 68 games.

There is much to be decided as the two teams will have a home-and-home series in early March. Brandon has just three games remaining against non-divisional teams, Prince Albert just one. The race to first in the East Division will be a good one.

Prince Albert currently leads the season series 2-1-0-0. Both teams enter the night on winning streaks. The Raiders have won three straight, the Wheat Kings two.

Brandon edges Prince Albert in the goal-scoring department. The Wheat Kings on average score 3.61 goals per game to the Raiders 3.32.

On the flip side, Prince Albert allows fewer goals per game, though the margin is slimmer. Prince Albert allows 2.54 goals per game to Brandon’s 2.77.

Luka Burzan
(Photo – Brandi Pollock)

Speaking of goals, each team has a goal scorer in the top-15 of the WHL. Luka Burzan of the Wheat Kings is seventh overall with 33 goals on the season. Aliaksei Protas of the Raiders is 13th overall with 28 goals. Cole Reinhardt of Brandon also has 28 goals.

Kaiden Guhle (photo-Andy Devlin)

Each team also has a draft-eligible defenseman in the top-20 among defensemen in scoring. Kaiden Guhle of the Raiders is 20th with nine goals and 27 assists. Braden Schneider of the Wheat Kings is 17th with six goals and 32 assists.

In this extremely important divisional game, both teams will look to their number one goaltenders to secure a victory. Prince Albert has Max Paddock to rely on. He is 19-15-3-4 this season, including a 9-2-0-2 record since being brought in via a trade with the Regina Pats. His goals-against average has dipped to 2.74 and his save percentage has climbed to .914.

Brandon will counter with Jiri Patera, who is 21-10-2-2 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .922 save percentage this season with the Wheat Kings.

You can catch all the action on WHL Live or tune into Trevor Redden on CKBI 900 for the Prince Albert Raiders away radio feed. You can also tune into Brandon Wheat Kings play-by-play with Branden Crowe on Q Country in Brandon.

In other WHL action (all times local):

Edmonton Oil Kings (38-10-6-3) @ Regina Pats (19-31-3-2) 7:00 PM

The Eastern Conference-leading Oil Kings will be looking to avenge last Friday’s loss to the Pats at home. Prior to that game, it had been nearly a month since the Oil Kings had lost at Rogers Place. Regina will look to continue to play spoilers. They are mathematically still in the playoff hunt but sit 18 points back of the Blades with 13 games to play. They are also riding a three-game losing skid. Edmonton lost last night in Brandon.

Swift Current Broncos (10-41-1-3) @ Saskatoon Blades (29-22-2-3) 7:00 PM

The Broncos have the least points in the WHL this season with just 24. So far, they have no points against the Blades, who have won all three previous meetings. Saskatoon is trying to keep pace with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen, looking to climb out of the last wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.

Tri-City Americans (17-33-4-1) @ Red Deer Rebels (20-31-2-3) 7:00 PM

Both teams are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Red Deer enters the night on a two-game win streak following the end of its BC Division road trip. Tri-City lost last night in Medicine Hat and is now 4-1-0-0 against the Central Division this season.

Seth Jarvis (Photo- Portland Winterhawks/Matthew Wolfe)

Portland Winterhawks (40-8-3-4) @ Seattle Thunderbirds (22-28-3-3) 6:05 PM

These two teams head north following a 5-3 Portland win over Seattle last night. Portland is the first WHL team to 40 wins on the season. The Winterhawks are 5-0-0-3 against the Thunderbirds this season; Seattle is 3-4-0-1. Portland has won two in a row, keeping its US Division lead to seven points. Seattle has an 11-point advantage over the Prince George Cougars for the final wild-card position.

Spokane Chiefs (34-18-4-1) @ Medicine Hat Tigers (35-18-2-1) 7:30 PM

The Spokane Chiefs will look to continue their Central Division dominance, as they are 2-0-0-0 thus far on the first half of their trip. They have also won three straight. Medicine Hat got itself back on the winning track with a win over Tri-City last night, clinching a playoff spot in the process.

Calgary Hitmen (32-19-4-1) @ Kamloops Blazers (35-16-3-1) 7:00 PM

The Blazers have a nine-point lead on the Vancouver Giants for the BC Division title. The Hitmen are in the first wild-card position in the Eastern Conference. Calgary is coming off a tough loss to the Vancouver Giants last night, while Kamloops is riding a three-game win streak and last played on Monday afternoon.

Tristen Nielsen. Photo by Allen Douglas/Kamloops Blazers

Vancouver Giants (30-20-3-2) @ Everett Silvertips (38-12-3-1) 7:05 PM

This game has the makings of a classic. The Giants are on an 11-game win streak while the Silvertips are riding a four-game win streak. In three one-goal games this season, the Silvertips have taken the win in all three. Vancouver has now surpassed Victoria in the standings with 65 points apiece. Everett trails Portland by seven points for the US Division lead.

Kelowna Rockets (25-26-2-2) @ Victoria Royals (29-21-5-2) 7:05 PM

The Rockets eeked out a 3-2 win last night against the Royals in the debut of Kris Mallette as head coach. The loss gave Victoria a five-game winless streak and brought the Rockets to within 11 points of the BC Division’s third-place Royals. The Rockets are now 3-3-0-1 against the Royals on the season.

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