NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion will work two newcomers into the lineup this weekend as the team hits the road for a pair of Ontario Hockey League games.
Forward Christian Stevens and defenceman Avery Winslow figure to make their Battalion debuts at some point as North Bay visits the Kitchener Rangers at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday night.
Stevens was acquired from Niagara and Winslow from the London Knights before the trade deadline last Friday. In addition, centre Shane Bulitka, who played his first game with the Troops last Friday night in an 8-2 road loss to his former team, the Sudbury Wolves, will be in the lineup.
“Those guys coming in at this time has been a blessing,” interim head coach Ryan Oulahen said Wednesday.
Oulahen said the week-long gap between games has provided the Battalion with time for a “mini training camp” in which to acclimate the new arrivals.
“It’s been nice. What the message is is that they’re not that far behind everybody else.”
Oulahen said that the insertion of Winslow could have an immediate impact on the fortunes of the Battalion, bolstering the three defence pairs.
“He’s a modern defenceman,” general manager Adam Dennis said of Winslow. “He plays very well with his feet. He’s mobile. He’s going to do a lot of different things for us.”
Winslow, a 17-year-old resident of St. Pete Beach, Fla., said he was pleased to join the Troops.
“I think I’m going to get a lot of playing time here and it’s going to help me and my family.”
Winslow, a left shot who stands five-foot-11 and weighs 179 pounds, said he thinks he can contribute at both ends of the ice.
“I take a lot of pride in my defence, and I try to chip in on offence when I can.”
Stevens, who was playing this season with the junior A Whitby Fury, also noted he’s happy to be in North Bay.
“I kind of like the small town. I’m from a small town in Brooklin up from Whitby.”
Stevens, also 17, stands five-foot-11 and weighs 181 pounds.
“I’m a hard-hitting forward. I can play centre and right wing, so I get pucks deep.”
The Battalion, with a won-lost-extended record of 9-29-2 for 20 points, is fifth in the Central Division. The Troops have lost their last five games, going 0-3-2 since a 5-3 home-ice win Dec. 31 over Sudbury. The team is 2-19-0 away from Memorial Gardens.
“The road is a different animal,” noted Oulahen, especially in relation to the OHL’s youngest team.
Kitchener is 24-11-6 for 54 points atop the Midwest Division, having lost its most recent game 5-4 in overtime last Sunday to the visiting Windsor Spitfires.
Centre Riley Damiani paces the Rangers in scoring with 17 goals and a team-leading 33 assists for 50 points in 40 games. Right winger Jonathan Yantsis has a team-high 30 goals and 12 assists for 42 points in 41 games, while centre Greg Meireles has scored 18 goals and added 23 assists for 41 points in 31 games.
Right winger Brandon Coe leads the Battalion with 15 goals and a team-high 21 assists for 36 points in 38 games, and centre Luke Moncada has a team-leading 20 goals and 13 assists for 33 points in 40 games. Right winger Mitchell Russell has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points in 36 games.
Coe is to join 39 other Canadian Hockey League stars selected by the National Hockey League’s central scouting department to play in the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game at Hamilton on Thursday night. It’s to be televised by Sportsnet at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Russell has been named an alternate captain with the Battalion. Moncada was promoted to captain after Brad Chenier was traded in the Bulitka deal.
In another transaction last week, the Battalion dealt Czech defenceman Martin Has, its first-round pick in the CHL Import Draft last June, to the Guelph Storm. Has skated with the Battalion for the first time in a 6-0 home-ice loss Thursday night to the Mississauga Steelheads, satisfying an OHL prerequisite for the trading of an import.
The Kitchener game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.