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Tough Weekend Ahead

The Kitchener Rangers are heading in to what will surely be their toughest weekend of the season so far, playing 3 of the OHL's top teams. They took care of goal one on Friday by defeating the Brampton Battalion, a team that usually has a little more jump in their step. However they showed up flat footed in the first period, allowing 4 Ranger goals while only scoring one, and they couldn't solve Franky Palazzese the rest of the way as the Rangers won 5-1, despite being outshot again.

Kitchener still has an issue of being badly outshot throughout most of the season. A stat I saw last night had the Rangers with the highest average shots against in the league. It seems strange with so many high quality D-men on the roster, that Kitchener would struggle to stop shots. Guys like Cody Sol, Ryan Murphy, Ben Fanelli and Max Iafrate are not doing everything they need to in order to help out their goalies. Not that Palazzese and Gibson aren't doing a great job, but the team could help them out a bit better.

Tobias Rieder scored his 32nd goal of the season last night. Rieder hasn't hit that mark since he was a little kid back in Germany. It's a huge accomplishment for the Edmonton Oilers draft pick who leads the Rangers in points. It's certainly a streak that everyone would like to see continue.

The Rangers head in to Plymouth today and then London tomorrow afternoon. Facing the two top teams in the OHL will be a huge challenge, and a real test. If Kitchener can pull off both wins it will solidify them as a team to be worried about come playoff time. Of course the Knights are already worried about the Rangers, who have yet to lose to London this season. They're most recent meeting was on January 25th, when Kitchener destroyed the Knights by a scored of 8-3. Obviously London is going to be better prepared for this game and we should see a more low scoring affair. Without John Gibson in net for Kitchener, who is London's kryptonite, perhaps they will finally beat Kitchener this season. At the same time, I'm sure Kitchener really wants to keep this streak going of not having lost to their two biggest rivals (Guelph and London) this season.

As for the game in Plymouth, Kitchener is in for a big challenge. They've struggled containing the Whalers this year, and have been beaten by them in every sense of the word so far this season. Plymouth won their first matchup 4-3, and the second 6-1. During that second game, the Rangers were very frustrated and made a lot of mistakes. The key to beating Plymouth has to be staying focused, not letting them push you around, and getting to Scott Wedgewood early and often. Definitely easier said than done against such a talented team, but certainly possible as well.

Just as a final note, both Evan McEnemy and Tyler Randell have been making progress in recovering from their injuries. McEnemy (knee) skated for the first time yesterday since October, and Randell should be ready to play come playoff time.

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