The Vancouver Giants are a team without an official home, thanks to the 2010 Winter Olympics that start this weekend in Vancouver.
Chilliwack’s B.C. division rivals have been booted out of the Pacific Coliseum to make way for figure and speed skating.
On a temporary basis, the Giants have set up shop at the Langley Events Centre, and that’s where the Bruins will find them Sunday night for the back half of a home and home that starts Saturday night at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre.
The Giants have played their last five ‘home’ games at the LEC, winning three and losing two. Their last game was a 5-4 shootout loss to the Tri-City Americans, a loss that should have them feeling extra cranky when they face the Bruins.
If the Giants need any more motivation against Chilliwack, it should come in the fact that the Bruins have taken three of the last four head-to-head meetings — a dramatic turning of the tables in a rivalry traditonally dominated by Vancouver. The Bruins are 6-26-2-1 all-time against the Giants.
That said, the Vancouver team that comes to town this weekend is vastly different from the one the Bruins beat 3-2 back on Dec. 18.
The Giants went nuts prior to and at the trade deadline, shipping players here and there like they were UPS packages.
Vancouver picked up Brett Breitkreuz and Tomas Vincour from the Edmonton Oil Kings in a multi-player swap, sending Mike Piluso, Garry Nunn and Sebastian Svendsen the other way (along with three draft picks).
They acquired Brent Henke from Lethbridge for a fifth rounder and dealt goaltender Jamie Tucker to Prince Albert for a second rounder.
They also got veteran James Wright back from the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lighting.
“He was good enough to play in the NHL for half a season, so he’s a top end player and another weapon for them,” Bruins coach Marc Habscheid observed. “He also knows their system from being there before, so he’s easier to fit in.”
Wright has six points in six games since returning, but the net result of the comings and goings is a team that is struggling to mesh, going 6-5-0-1 since Jan. 10.
“They’re a team that will always work hard, play gritty and force your players into areas where they’re forced to complete one on one,” Habscheid said, talking about things that never change.
Habscheid talked earlier in the season about his team’s struggles against the Giants and the possiblity of a mental block.
This year’s Bruins haven’t seemed as rattled as past editions when facing Vancouver. If a mental block did exist, Habscheid suspects his team is over it.
“You always have respect for them because of how hard they play,” Habscheid noted. “But we’re starting to pride ourselves on the way we work and compete as well. We want to get to the point where we don’t take a back-seat to anyone.”
Playing in Langley promises to be an interesting experience. One Chilliwack Bruin, Dylen McKinlay, will be playing major junior hockey in his hometown. Two Vancouver Giants, Dillon and Brendan Scholten, will be doing that as well.
“I’m sure Dylen is psyched up to play there because it is home for him,” Habscheid commented. “But I think the players are more concerned about winning hockey games.”
The Bruins will be trying to bounce back from a 1-0 loss to Kelowna in their last game.
Facing the Tri-City Americans (39-14-0-2) tonight and the Giants back-to-back is a daunting task indeed, but Habscheid believes his team is up to the challenge.
“I think this week has been good and I really like that, for the most part, our guys respond well to adversity,” Habscheid said. “We’ve made some adjustments along the way, giving them every opportunity to be successful. It’s getting fun now because they’re starting to play in tune.”