The Rink Rats clinched a playoff spot last night for the second time since new management took over the last place club 2 years ago. Last night’s contest against the Timberjacks was a thriller as the Rink Rats outshot Portland 48-28 in their 4-2 win. Afterwards, Head Coach Barry Melrose described the game as a “complete team effort” in a game they needed to win. The Rink Rats are hoping to continue their winning ways tonight as they host the Vancouver Voodoo, a team that has had some unlucky moments as well. Let’s break this one down to see how the two teams match up.
Vancouver @ Minnesota: Game at a Glance
Center: Advantage – Draw:
Both clubs have one awesome center and then some additional help behind. Although the Voodoo’s Oli Jokinen has struggled at times this season, he has the ability to put up decent numbers as does the Rink Rats’ Daymond Langkow who is among the league leaders in scoring. The Voodoo has 2 centers in Michael Peca & Michal Handzus who play very well defensively but struggle at times in the offensive zone. The Rink Rats’ Alexei Yashin has been a great surprise this season as has Matthew Lombardi. Both provide decent secondary scoring.
Left Wing: Advantage – Voodoo:
It’s hard to find two better players in the league in the Voodoo’s Thomas Vanek & Rick Nash. Both are remarkable scorers, and although most would call Vanek’s season a disappointment thus far they both can take a game over if they wish.
The Rink Rats have a solid group of left wingers lead by Derek Roy & Sergei Samsonov. Following Roy & Samsonov is a solid mix of Martin Rucinsky and Ryan Potulny both of whom can add additional secondary scoring.
Right Wing: Advantage – Draw:
The Voodoo may have a slight edge, but both clubs have solid options at right wing. The Voodoo’s Marcus Naslund is consistently one of the best scorers in the game. The team also has pretty good depth with the likes of super youngsters Patrick Kane and Lee Stempniak.
The Rink Rats are lead by Mike Cammalleri, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrick O’Sullivan who have all played very well this season and could play top-6 minutes on most clubs.
Defense: Advantage – Rink Rats:
Brent Burns has been on a tear all season and is a top contender for the Norris Trophy. Between Burns and Jay Bouwmeester the club has two of the most promising young defenseman in the game. Behind them is Derek Morris, Nick Boynton, Paul Ranger and Mike VanRyn.
Vancouver has a great defensive corps as well in Wade Redden, Matthias Ohlund, Bret Hedican, Sami Salo, Cory Murphy and Rhett Warrener. Don’t be surprised to see Redden & Ohlund play a lot of minutes in every situation.
Goal: Advantage – Voodoo:
How could you not give the Voodoo the edge in this category? Martin Brodeur is one of the best WHL goalies of all time and is backed up by Marc-Andre Fleury. Ryan Miller of the Rink Rats was a Hart Trophy finalist last season and has really come around as of late playing exceptional in net. The Rink Rats will have to get to Brodeur early and often if they want to take this game.
Special Teams: Slight Advantage – Rink Rats:
The Voodoo have one of the best penalty kills in the league and the Rink Rats have one of the best power plays in the league. This is a pretty tight category but expect special teams to play a significant role in tonight’s matchup.
Outcome: One for the ages! These two clubs will come prepared as they try to jockey for position heading into the playoffs. The Voodoo are on a 3 game skid whereas the Rink Rats won their 1st last night in 4 games upsetting the Portland Timberjacks. If the Rink Rats are going to win, they’ll have to outshoot Vancouver and stay out of the penalty box in order to capitalize on man-advantage opportunities.