After an entire week without any games, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles return to action tonight and tomorrow with back-to-back dates with the Saint John Sea Dogs from Harbour Station in Saint John, NB. The Eagles enter tonight's game (7:00 PM, CJCB AM 1270) sporting a record of 44-19-2 for 90 points, and riding a five-game winning streak, their fourth win streak of such length this season. If history is any indication, the Eagles will have to be on their guard tonight, because each of their three previous five-game win streaks was halted in game #6. Conversely, a win tonight in Saint John would give the Screaming Eagles their longest winning streak of the season.
As far the impact of tonight's game on the final standings is concerned, the Eagles would pretty much have to win in order to keep their very slim hopes of catching the Lewiston MAINEiacs alive. Lewiston won both games they played this week while Cape Breton was idle, meaning they now sit eight points ahead of the Screaming Eagles, with just four games left for Lewiston and five for Cape Breton. Do the math- chances are extremely slim of catching the MAINEiacs now, but if the Eagles are to have any chance at all, they would have to win tonight.
The Sea Dogs are in last place overall in the QMJHL, and are already guaranteed to miss the playoffs. However, that certainly doesn't mean that this weekend's games will be easy. For a reminder of this, look no further than last month, when Saint John visited C200 for a pair of games and gave the Screaming Eagles fits. The Sea Dogs upset the Eagles 2-1 in the first game and almost beat them again the second time around before finally running out of gas in the third period. They seemed to have down pat a really stifling, "dump it out" style of play that badly neutralized the talent on the Cape Breton roster. The Eagles will have to be prepared for a similar Saint John game plan tonight, although it's possible that the Sea Dogs would not play quite as stifling a style in front of their hometown fans. Cape Breton will also have to be ready with answers for goaltender Travis Fullerton, who stood on his head in those two games last month at C200, and who has a history of stealing games from the Screaming Eagles.
Jonathan Laberge should return to the lineup this weekend after sitting out the past few weeks with injury. One would also assume that Paul McIlveen would be in uniform once again after missing the two home games last weekend with the flu. Ondrej Pavelec is your likely starter in goal, as he's been given almost all of the starts down the home stretch to try and really keep him in a groove for the playoffs. However, the team could very well start David Davenport in the rematch tomorrow afternoon.
One final item of interest is that JC Sawyer has a chance this weekend to tie or even break the team record for points in a season by a defenceman (Mathieu Dumas, 69 pts, 01-02), in front of family and friends in his hometown of Saint John. He currently sits at 68 points, one shy of tying the record. It would surely be a special moment for him to be able to establish a new standard in his native city.