Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sea Dogs Weekend Preview

By SN Staff
SAINT JOHN – There is a big game before the big game this weekend.

The two top teams in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League meet on Saturday as the Shawinigan Cataractes host the Saint John Sea Dogs at 5pm at the Bionest Centre. Then that Super Bowl thing is on Sunday.

Saint John and Shawinigan have met twice this season already with both games being played at Harbour Station. The Sea Dogs needed overtime to win the first one and then fell 4-1 to the Cataractes a few weeks ago in what wasn’t Saint John’s greatest performance of the year.

We’re designating Saturday’s contest as the first “real meeting” of the season. The first head-to-head matchup was before the trade deadline and the second was immediately after the deadline. Now, Saint John’s lineup is almost at full strength and the Cataractes’s acquisitions have had time to adjust to their new team.

Saturday’s game has been named the QMJHL game of the week by Patrick King of Sportsnet.

The Sea Dogs will make their first trip to Shawinigan this season after playing the first two games of the season series at home. Saint John won the first the game in overtime, then lost 4-1 on Jan. 12 which was the first time the two teams met after the trade deadline. Shawinigan looked like the better team the last time they played. This game could be of great significance to the playoff picture, as the Sea Dogs currently have a point lead on the Cats for top spot in league standings.

The Sea Dogs are also in action tomorrow night in Drummondville. The Dogs take on the Volts at 8pm.

Here are five things to watch for/follow heading into this weekend’s games.

1. VILLEMAIRE RETURNS: Forward Maxime Villemaire is expected to make his Sea Dogs return this weekend. The 19-year old scored in his Saint John debut January 4 but left the team soon after because of personal reasons. Almost a month later, he is expected to be back in Sea Dogs blue.

"He has told Mike Kelly (Director of Hockey Operations) that he’d meet up with us in Drummondville tomorrow. We will know for sure when we get there", said Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant to on Wednesday night. "We are looking forward to it. We totally expect him to play. We were pleased with his one game. He was the star of the game."

"I'm exciting to play with sea-dogs st-john and i'm ready to play a big half season!!", Villemaire tweeted yesterday.

The former Voltigeur has nine goals and nine assists in 34 QMJHL games played this season.

2. BIG GUNS: Will Saint John’s top line continue their hot play this weekend? Here’s the point totals for Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, and Charlie Coyle since the team’s last loss on January 12.

Huberdeau: 5GP-1G-6A-7Pts
Phillips: 5GP-4G-1A-5Pts
Coyle: 5GP-4G-3A-7Pts

Those are some solid numbers.

3. FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME: Saturday will be the Sea Dogs’ first appearance in Shawinigan this season and first since February 27 of last year. The response Saint John gets will be interesting. We all know that most Sea Dogs fans aren’t too fond of the Cataractes, so what do Cats fans think of the Dogs? Do they feel the same way as some of the Shawinigan media? We’ll find out this weekend.

4. STANDINGS WATCH: Entering this weekend, the Sea Dogs sit one-point up on the Cataractes for first-place in the league. Shawinigan has played one fewer game.

Both teams have been on a roll of late. The Dogs have won five straight and eight of their last 10 while the Cataractes are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10.

5. SEINFELD FACTOR: Jerry Seinfeld is in town tomorrow night. If he references the Sea Dogs at all, we’ll probably pass out.

We liked this ad until Leno showed up. #TeamCoco

Photo Credit: Marc Henwood/Station Nation

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