Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wranglers and Grizzlies embark on extra-long series

By Anthony Fenech

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 | Midnight

And now, a two-week forecast for your Las Vegas Wranglers: Grizzlies, Grizzlies and more Grizzlies.

Tuesday night, the Wranglers dropped the first game of a lengthy early-season series to the Utah Grizzlies 3-2 at Orleans Arena.

And for the team's foreseeable future, it's all Utah, all the time.

It's seven games against the Grizzlies in 13 days, with two road trips to Utah and back.

Hopefully for the Wranglers, the series will include their first victory against a Utah team that's had the best of them so far this season.

"A win against them is what we need right now," defenseman Craig Switzer said. "We need some confidence against them because they've had our number lately."

The Wranglers are winless in three tries against the Grizzlies this year, with all three of those defeats coming on their home ice of Orleans Arena.

In those contests, they have been outscored 17-7.

"The good thing is that it's the start of the year and we're only 10 games in," Switzer said. "But as the season winds down, these are the games that we're going to remember, so we need the wins."

The teams will face off for three straight games in the next three days, the first two on Thursday and Friday being played at Orleans Arena, before the Wranglers travel to Utah for a Saturday game in West Valley City, at the E-Center.

After Saturday's game, the teams will part ways for five days before reconvening for a three-game set the following Friday in Utah.

"It's brutal," Wranglers head coach Ryan Mougenel said. "I don't know how else to explain it and I don't fully understand it, but that's the scheduling and I'm not going to whine about it."

Many of the Wranglers' problems against Utah have come at the hands of Grizzlies captain and left-winger Ryan Kinasewich.

Kinasewich, who leads the ECHL with 13 goals and 20 points in only nine games, has scored five goals with four assists against the Wranglers this season.

"It's not just confidence playing the Wranglers, it's confidence playing on the road," Kinasewich said. "We've had most of our success on the road, and we need to figure out how to translate that to home."

As Tuesday night's game wore on, the hitting started to pick up, scrums began to form after whistles and players were jawing.

With the way both teams have played each other so far, it will be no surprise if both these teams emerge from the seven-game series with a new-found dislike for one another.

"That's the thing with this series," Kinasewich said. "We've seen the bad blood with three-game series but if the refs do their jobs, then nothing should boil over."

Switzer is a bit more confident about the gloves dropping in the near future.

"I think it will happen. It's like a playoff series, and that's what happens," Switzer said. "Guys are going to get sick of each other and both teams will get frustrated with each other, but that's what makes it fun."

What would undoubtedly make the series more fun is a win or two or three to pull closer to the top of the division.

"I'm not happy about it," Mougenel said. "Our guys better wake up or it's going to be a long series."

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