Time and math are not friends of the Victoria Royals.
Their already-problematic chances of finishing anything but sixth in the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League would be all but dead without a sweep of the Spokane Chiefs tonight and Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
At the moment, the Royals are facing a first round-playoff date for the second consecutive year against the nationally top-10 ranked Kamloops Blazers.
The best way to avoid that fate is to move up in the standings. But with 10 games remaining in the regular season, Victoria (32-25-5) trails the fifth-place Chiefs (37-24-2) by seven points, with a game in hand, and is eight points adrift of the fourth-place Tri-City Americans.
“If you don’t beat the teams you’re chasing, you don’t deserve to move up in the standings,” was Victoria head coach Dave Lowry’s blunt assessment of the situation.
While the Royals have lost five consecutive games and gone winless in seven at 0-6-1, the Chiefs have won three straight games and Tri-City six in a row.
“We need better five-on-five play and better puck decisions,” said Lowry.
“We need to play a simpler game and for guys to step up and accept responsibility to be better.”
In order to be successful this weekend, the Royals will have to contain the Spokane engine room — as represented by Brenden Kichton, who scored his 19th and 20th goals in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory in Everett.
The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., pushed his league-leading points total for a defenceman to 72, which is 13 more points than the next nearest blueliner and a whopping 24 points more than the second nearest.
“[Kichton] is one of the top players in the league and we’ve got him for six periods. We have to make it tough for him,” said Lowry, of the 20-year-old, who is shaping up as a 2011 fifth-round draft steal for the New York Islanders.
It takes a defenceman to know a defenceman and Victoria’s steady blueliner, Brett Cote, realizes he will see a lot of Kichton, who likes to jump up into the play. “We have to get on him quick and find a way to neutralize what he does,” said Cote.
“We can’t give him time in which to create chances.”
Meanwhile, Lowry said Victoria forward Logan Fisher “is fine” and “day-to-day.” That’s good news after Fisher was stabilized and carried off on a stretcher in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Lethbridge.
The versatile Fisher, however, is unlikely to be in the line-up this weekend and adds to Victoria’s list of banged up and hobbled forwards, which also includes Austin Carroll, Taylor Crunk, Alex Gogolev and Luke Harrison.
Called up to the Royals has been 18-year-old, six-foot-five defenceman Isaac Schacher, a Victoria-signed player whose Kimberley Dynamiters were eliminated in the Kootenay International Junior League playoffs.
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