The North Bay Battalion will be without two more key forwards as they prepare to take on the much improved Sudbury Wolves on Thursday night in an empty North Bay Memorial Gardens.
New acquisition Kyle McDonald has been suspended four games after taking major and game misconduct penalties for a check from behind in an 8-2 home-ice loss last Sunday to the Barrie Colts, while centre Liam Arnsby, who didn’t play in the final frame after a second-period kneeing penalty, is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
"It is a learning moment for sure, I don't think it is an attitude thing with Kyle," said coach Ryan Oulahen about the McDonald suspension.
"With his size, he is a big body and he needs to be smarter in that area and be a little more disciplined."
On top of that, centre Kyle Jackson, who has missed 10 games since suffering a knee injury Dec. 3, continues to recover from that but also has been placed under COVID-19 protocols.
"He is still kind of under the week to week timeline," noted Oulahen during Wednesday's zoom media call.
"It is just about him feeling really comfortable on the ice. He is skating but he needs a little more extra time. We want to make sure when he comes back he is at 100 per cent."
With those challenges, the Troops will be calling up forward Christian Stevens from the OJHL's Haliburton Huskies for Thursday's contest.
While Brandon Coe and Matvey Petrov both continue to sit in the top five in OHL scoring, Oulahen says he would like to see more secondary scoring coming from the likes of first-year forwards Dalyn Wakely, Michaal Podolioukh, Owen Van Steensel.
"We are looking for different ways to do that," Oulahen stated about secondary scoring on the Troops.
"There are certain things we can do as a coaching standpoint; whether we mix things up a little bit or just having a little bit more from the back end; maybe we can get something from there as well in terms of secondary scoring and I do really think there's a couple of guys that are just on the verge to pop out."
Oulahen is hoping his team plays a more disciplined game Thursday night after four third period penalties allowed the Barrie Colts to break open a close 4-2 game with four unanswered third period tallies, including three on the power play, in an 8-2 Colts win in North Bay on Sunday.
“First and foremost, the easiest way to kill penalties is to stay out of the penalty box," he said.
"When you take so many and you have to kill so many penalties off, the percentages just don’t work in your favour, so that is the number one thing is we have to be a more disciplined team."
The Wolves, who dropped a 4-1 decision Tuesday night to the Barrie Colts, have been playing better as of late including thrashing the high-flying Kingston Frontenacs 8-4 last Friday on a nationally televised contest.
Wolves goaltender Mitchell Weeks and forward David Goyette were named OHL goalie and OHL player of the week respectively last week.
"Sudbury is a team that has been playing some of its best hockey of the season as of late here," said Oulahen.
"A lot of their players are playing with a lot of energy. It looks like they have confidence so they are going to be a good test for us."
North Bay, at the halfway point of its 68-game schedule, has a won-lost-extended record of 18-12-4 for 40 points, second in the Central Division. Sudbury is 10-19-4 for 24 points, fourth in the division.
The Battalion is 2-5-2 in its last nine games, while the Wolves are 2-1-1 in their last four.