The struggling Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League could use a big boost right about now.
They were tied for 14th place in the 18-team league before Friday’s games. They entertain Drummondville tonight and Sunday travel to Acadie-Bathurst. The last two teams in the standings miss the playoffs so these games are very important.
Local hockey fans, and those who follow the Pittsburgh Penguins, cannot understand why the Penguins haven’t sent 18-year-old rookie Daniel Sprong back to the Islanders, who could really use his help.
The Penguins, who lost two of their last three on a West coast swing, did not dress Sprong in any of those games. Veteran forward Pascal Dupuis announced his retirement earlier this week due to an ongoing medical condition so maybe that’s why Sprong has been kept around the Steel City.
Sprong, who hadn’t dressed since Nov. 17, was in the lineup for Wednesday’s game in Colorado, so it’s very likely he’ll get a long look before a final decision on his status is made. Sprong played a little over six minutes Wednesday, so he’s not overworked.
The Penguins and Sidney Crosby have not played near expectations and if that continues, trades could be in the works. Crosby and Phil Kessel were barely visible in the Colorado game, and that can’t continue much longer. A Penguins hot streak suggests Sprong will stay, anything other than that suggests a shakeup is in the works.
The odds are heavily against Sprong returning here, thus the locals will have to make do with the players they have. They need our support, so let’s get behind the team and see if we can make a difference tonight against Drummondville.
In other local hockey news, Conor MacEachern, a six-foot-four defenceman and son of Olympian Eli MacEachern, has played 19 of 26 games with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League.
The annual Nooners oldtimers Christmas hockey tournament is just around the corner and ex-Panthers star Terry McKenna arrived back from a brief holiday in Florida to get ready.
McKenna played a few rounds of golf in the sunshine state with Dan MacIsaac and George Roberts and fired a hole-in-one. The Links at Crowbush club champion can do no wrong these days and that’s bad news for goaltender Jamie Cudmore, his Nooners rival.
Former WHA star Bob Whitlock from Trail, B.C., sends best wishes and a speedy recovery to his buddy Bob MacMillan after a hip operation earlier this week. MacMillan has had three or four knee operations and now the hip, which is a result of “all those blocked shots from his NHL days,” Whitlock says with a chuckle.
Local basketball star Doug McKinney is not with the Island Storm this season, which is sad since he was the only Islander on the club. I was there for Doug’s 18-point game and that’s what I’ll always remember.
The Storm opens the season here on Boxing Day.
Local harness racing continues today at the city track with a 16-dash card starting at 12:30 p.m.
The feature is the $2,400 top class that has All Turain, Forever Paradise, Mach Wheel, Smiley Bayama, Painted Desert and First Art Down.
At Wooodbine, James MacDonald drives Push Back in the $27,000 feature which includes Drachan Hanover, Nirvana Seelster and three others.
At Yonkers tonight, Melmerby Beach is one of the favourites in the $32,000 top class, which includes Lucan Hanover and Always At My Place. Serge Savard’s Arthur Blue Chip made a break last Sunday night at Pompano and is not in Sunday.
The Prophet’s Football Picks
I was 3-for-4 last week, as the Minnesota Vikings let me down again at home. They are a good team but going nowhere in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-2) – The Steelers are on the road, Big Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and the team is on fire, 3.5-point dogs against the Bungles. Jump aboard.
Seattle (7-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-8) – The red-hot Seahawks smoked the Vikings last week and are hungry. They’ll cover the seven-point spread against a Ravens club that can’t score.
Buffalo Bills (6-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) – Last week the City of Brotherly Love football fans wanted to chase head coach Chip Kelly out of town, now they love him after the Giants upset. The Eagles upset the Patriots and are sky high. Bills running back LeSean McCoy wants revenge after Kelly shipped him to Buffalo. He gets his revenge in a Bills upset.
New Orleans Saints (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) – There’s only two Saints fans left in the city, Florence Skinner and Tom Mullally, and they’ll have the crying towel out again Sunday because the Saints are brutal on the road. Tampa Bay is playoff bound and will win at home.
New York Giants (5-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7) – Ex-UPEI great Mike Lyriotokis is fit to be tied, as his Giants find new ways to lose every week. Not kicking a field goal to extend the lead over the Jets to 13 points late in Sunday’s game was a dumb decision and it may cost the Giants a playoff position. Giants are in Miami and they’ll win big.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.