Don't be surprised if the Prince George Cougars lineup has a veteran or two missing for tonight's game with the Spokane Chiefs.
The Cougars (5-6-1) begin a three-game home stand at CN Centre in the midst of a five-game losing skid and the rookies outplaying some veterans on the Western Hockey League club's roster. In Saturday's 3-2 loss in Spokane forwards Caleb Belter and Chase Witala were healthy scratches.
After the game, Cougars head coach Dean Clark was blunt in his post-game interview, suggesting other veterans could find themselves sitting in the stands and on Monday Cats' assistant coach Jason Becker concurred that some players may need a wake-up call.
"I think it becomes a possibility for sure," said Becker. "We've been sitting guys who are young and inexperienced with the league here, but it's really not them that are making all the mistakes. It's maybe time to set an example with our group. We do have the numbers and we are able to sit guys for guys who will step up and contribute the way that we need them to."
The Cougars are carrying 22 skaters - eight defencemen and 14 forwards.
"We have some guys that are making mistakes that we expect them not to make," said Becker. "We know it's not a game of perfection, you are going to make mistakes, but when it's game-in, game-out where we're seeing similar mistakes it might be time to send a message."
Becker said it would be nice if more players were giving the effort that rookie defencemen Raymond Grewal and Tanner Lishchynsky along with rookie forward Brett Roulston are putting into their game right now.
"In the last little while our younger inexperienced guys have been taking steps forward and we need our older guys to continue to pull the way that those guys do," said Becker.
The assistant coach distributed some of the blame for the Cougars' losing streak onto choices made by the coaching staff as to who to sit.
"We have been making some wrong decision too in terms of what's happened," said Becker. "Now we have even tougher decisions to make. Do we go with guys who are more veteran players who have the ability to contribute more or do we still stay with the younger inexperienced guys?"
Belter had no comment on being scratched Saturday - the second game he's missed this season after serving a one-game suspension for an interference major he took against Lethbridge - but he had a possible solution to the team's woes.
"We've just got to play simple hard-nosed hockey," said the 19-year-old. "We've got a lot of stuff going on right now with the losing. We've got to turn the ship and keep it simple hockey, nothing too crazy, and just make smart plays and get everyone motivated and on the same page."
In their last five games, the Cougars have been outscored 21-6 including being shutout in back-to-back games last week to Calgary and in Kelowna. Saturday it was a battle of power plays as the Chiefs (8-3) scored twice with the man-advantage in first period and the Cougars responded with two power play goals of their own in the second. But a giveaway with 24 seconds left in regulation saw the puck wind up in the back of the Cats' net, costing them a point.
With the Chiefs in Prince George for two games, tonight and Wednesday (7 p.m.) the Cougars don't have to wait to avenge their loss.
"You always want redemption against a team you just lost to," said Belter.
Cat scratches: Chiefs head coach, and Prince George native, Don Nachbaur was named head coach for Team WHL for the Subway Super Series, Nov. 14 in Vancouver and Nov. 15 in Victoria. His assistant in both games will be Derek Laxdal (Edmonton Oil Kings head coach) while Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay will serve as an assist in Vancouver and Victoria Royals coach Dave Lowry will assist in Victoria. The youth movement in Red Deer continues as the Rebels traded 19-year-old forward Chad Robinson to the Brandon Wheat Kings - in P.G. for a game with the Cougars on Saturday - on Monday for a seventh round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. In 129 games with the Rebels, Robinson had 11 goals and 44 points. Who says Cats can't play with dogs? The Cougars encourage their fans to bring their dogs to the Nov. 10 game against the Oil Kings, as a part of the salute to service dogs week and in conjunction with Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan performing at CN Centre on November 11th. Section P will be reserved for people with their pets. Fans who want to participate need to sign a wavier when they purchase their tickets.