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Giants host Thunderbirds in critical Western Conference clash on WHL in 30

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Seattle Thunderbirds (27-18-5-2) at Vancouver Giants (28-17-5-3)

Saturday, February 10 –Shaw TV 12 p.m. (Mountain)

Two important points are up for grabs in the Western Conference as the Seattle Thunderbirds fly north to battle the Vancouver Giants on the next edition of WHL in 30.

Both teams have been doing well this season and should be present for the 2017 Western Hockey League playoffs, but there’s always a need of points in the standings at this time of year. The Thunderbirds are locked in a bitter wild card battle with the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans for third in the U.S. Division — one point separating the three clubs — with the two others occupying the wild card spots.

The Giants meanwhile are battling it out in the B.C. Division with the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets in the hockey equivalent of musical chairs, with six points separating the top three teams in the division. For now, it’s just those three teams from the B.C. Division holding a playoff spot, but the Kamloops Blazers are coming ever closer to challenging that top three order, sitting 12 points behind the Giants with 19 games to go in the season.

The Giants are 4-3-2-1in their last 10 while the Thunderbirds are 7-2-1-0.

Stat attack:

Thunderbirds forward Donovan Neuls has played in 265 games and he’s making his overage year a career-best, leading the Thunderbirds with 57 points (19G-38A) in 53 games. Thunderbirds captain Turner Ottenbreit also recently played in his 265th career WHL game.

Neuls’ teammate Nolan Volcan is also steadily approaching the 250 game mark in his WHL career, sitting four games away. The Edmonton, Alta. product has set career-highs this year for goals (25), assists (31), points (56), and power-play goals (7).

The Thunderbirds boast a pair of NHL prospects on their blue line in defenceman Austin Strand (Los Angeles Kings) and Jarret Tyszka (Montreal Canadiens). Strand, an overage player this year, recently surpassed the 100-point milestone in his WHL career and his two games shy of 250 for his WHL career. He’s more than doubled his goal production this season with 17 goals, the third-most among WHL defencemen this season.

Tyszka is two years younger than his teammate Strand and recently surpassed the 150 games played milestone for his WHL career. Saturday’s WHL in 30 broadcast will be a homecoming for Tyszka, who hails from Langley, B.C. He has six points (2G-4A) against the Giants in his WHL career.

Ty Ronning (New York Rangers) is the leading story at the moment for the Vancouver Giants. The Rangers’ seventh-round selection from the 2016 NHL Draft is one goal away from tying Evander Kane’s franchise record for the most goals in a single season and it feels like a matter of when, not if he breaks that record.

Not only was he selected as the WHL “On The Run” Player of the Week, but the CHL Player of the Week as well. Approaching the 50-goal plateau, Ronning is the Western Conference leader in goals.

Giants’ captain Tyler Benson (Edmonton Oilers) recently surpassed the 50-point threshold for the first time in his WHL career and is producing at a batter rate than he did during last season’s 42-point effort in 33 games. He’s also one goal away from the first 20-goal season of his WHL career.

James Malm sits two games away from 150 for his WHL career and is turning heads for another reason. His nine game-winning goals this season and it’s more impressive when considering he has tallied those nine game-winners as part of a 17-goal campaign this season.

For a complete list of WHL in 30 broadcasts, please follow this link. ***PLEASE NOTE: WHL in 30 is a condensed format, 30-minute broadcast of the WHL Game of the Week, airing the day after the game is originally played

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