Raiders center Leon Draisaitl is tied with Seattle Thunderbirds center Mathew Barzal for 13th overall in league scoring with 20 points and is riding a four-game point streak. Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Riding a two-game win streak, the Prince Albert Raiders second place footing in the Eastern Conference will be on the line when the Medicine Hat Tigers visit the Art Hauser Centre on Tuesday.
The Tigers sit third in the Eastern Conference, despite having played just 13 games, fewer than any other team in the conference. With a win on Tuesday, the Tigers can overtake the Raiders in the standings, lighting a fire under the team, Raiders leading goal scorer Leon Draisaitl said.
“Obviously you want to win those games,” Draisaitl said. “We are really close in the standings and those are a huge two points for us. We are really motivated about that game and we want to get those points for sure.”
The Raiders met the Tigers four times last season, posting a record of 2-1-1, outscoring the Tigers 15-9. Tuesday’s meeting will be the Raiders first of four against the 8-3-2 Tigers this season.
Raiders center Jayden Hart and defenceman Dylan Busenius will face off against their former team on Tuesday. The Raiders acquired Hart, Busenius and a 2014 sixth-round draft pick from the Tigers on Jan. 1, in exchange for a second-round pick, center Logan McVeigh and defenceman Zach Hodder who was subsequently traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Sept. 13.
Also shipped to Medicine Hat in the deal was prospect Connor Hobbs, who did not crack the Tigers roster this season.
Tigers center Hunter Shinkaruk, selected in the first round, 24th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has 10 points in seven games this season. Also on the radar will be Tigers leading scorer, center Curtis Valk with six goals, 11 assists and defenseman Tyler Lewington who holds a plus-12 rating.
Fifteen games into the season, the Raiders record of 9-5-1 is nearly identical to last season’s 9-4-2 and a close opposite of the previous season’s 4-9-2.
“Towards the top,” Draisaitl said when asked about the team’s direction about a quarter way through the season.
Draisaitl, who joined the team last season, has been critical to the franchise’s turnaround, helping the Raiders clinch their second playoff berth in three years last season.
“We are a great team and everyone knows we are not the team we were two years ago. We are a new team with lots of changes, everyone knows that and nobody takes us lightly, we have to battle every night.”
Draisaitl has a point in all but three games this season and is riding a four-game point streak, contributing an assist in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre.
After a rough 1-2-1 road trip earlier this month and an Oct. 20 loss back at home to the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Raiders have bounced back, winning two straight against the Pats, with most of the credit geared towards the stellar goaltending of overage starter Cole Cheveldave and rookie backup Nick McBride.
McBride and Cheveldave each allowed just one goal in their respective starts in the home-and-home series against the Pats last week, which included a particularly impressive 42-save performance from 16-year-old McBride on Wednesday at the Brandt Centre.
“McBride is younger and going through a bit of a learning curve, but that game he played in Regina was unbelievable,” Draisaitl said. “It’s great to know you have two goalies that can keep the puck out of the net, it definitely gives you confidence.”
The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.