With first place in the BCHL and the Mainland division wrapped up, the Chilliwack Chiefs have nothing left to play for until the playoffs start.
But they still have two regular season games to get through.
The Chiefs travel to Prince George for games Friday and Saturday, and head coach Brian Maloney was musing Tuesday morning about how to handle it.
Maloney was about to get on an airplane to Alberta to go scout a couple players at the Canada Winter Games, something he wouldn’t be doing if his team hadn’t beat PG last Sunday.
“I was originally going to send one of my coaches,” he said. “But with the position we’re in, I’m going to skip Prince George and do some heavy recruiting here.”
Assistants Cam Keith and Brad Rihela will accompany the team to PG, or at least the part of the team that makes the trip.
“We’re going to assess our group and see where we’re at with bumps and bruises and what guys probably need some rest,” Maloney said. “We’ll most likely be resting a few guys, and we’ll also look to call up some of our affiliated players, guys we think have a good chance to play junior A hockey.
“If it were up to us, we’d probably grab six or seven of them, but unfortunately their teams are in playoffs as well and we don’t want to rip their best players away from them.”
So the Chiefs will bring several regulars to PG, but top guns like Kevin Wall, Harrison Blaisdell and Matt Holmes will be candidates to sit.
It’s likely number one goalie Daniel Chenard will get a breather as well, though with how well he’s playing lately you’d figure the Quebec kid just wants to keep rolling.
“We haven’t made a final decision on that yet, but most likely you’ll see Nolan (Hildebrand) in one of the games for sure, if not both,” Maloney acknowledged. “Daniel is still coming off surgery and he’s only played half a season, and he’s still doing rehab, icing and stretching to make sure his hip doesn’t impact his game negatively.
“You don’t worry about him getting tired or wearing down, but a break for Daniel wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
The Spruce Kings still have something to play for this weekend.
While they’re locked in as the Mainland division’s second seed, they can still drop a spot in the overall standings.
The Penticton Vees are five points behind PG with one game in hand. If those teams meet in the third round of the playoffs, the Spruce Kings will want home ice advantage, so they should be motivated to beat Chilliwack.
Maloney’s Chiefs will have to find their own reasons to be motivated.
“It’s a great opportunity for some players on our current roster to get more minutes and possibly play in certain positions where they might be playing next year,” Maloney noted. “We’ll rely on some of these guys more next year, so we’ll give them that opportunity this weekend and get a really good lock at them in those positions.
“Then you’ve got guys who have been in and out of the lineup and guys who’ve had limited ice the last little stretch. Those guys are trying to solidy themselves as regular players for the playoffs, so this is a great opportunity for them to fine-tune their game and maybe gain some confidence.”