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September 20, 2014

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HOCKEY:

Wranglers looking for revenge on the road

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Justin M. Bowen

Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Sean Owens winds up for a slap shot against Ontario on Oct. 24.

Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Sean Owens does not remember much about the hit that knocked him unconscious nearly one year ago.

But Owens will certainly never forget who delivered the high-elbow blow that caused him to miss more than two months last season: current Victoria Salmon Kings forward Olivier Labelle.

It was Jan. 27, 2008, when Labelle blindsided Owens at the Orleans Arena and the two have not met on the ice since.

Owens could finally have a chance to confront Labelle during the Wranglers' four-game road trip to Owens' hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, that starts tonight against the West Division leading Salmon Kings (29-12-4).

"No, I haven't forgotten," Owens said. "How could I? It affected me big time last season. So yeah, it's in the back of my head, but we'll see what happens. I don't have anything planned, but we'll see what happens up there."

Labelle, who is a physical and point-producing force, racked up 169 penalty minutes and 48 points in 52 games with the Grizzlies last season. This year, the 23-year-old forward has notched 75 penalty minutes and 22 points in 30 games with the Salmon Kings.

Labelle will most certainly see significant ice time during the series with the Wranglers (20-18-4), but Owens will have to wait on Las Vegas coach Glen Gulutzan's lineup decision each night to see if he will dress.

Owens, who is in his seventh professional season and second in Las Vegas, has seen ice time in 23 games this season, but he has not dressed in the Wranglers' last nine contests.

"I'm ready," Owens said. "I'm just staying in shape so I'll be ready when needed."

Aside from the chance to skate against Labelle, Owens would also relish an opportunity to play in front of his hometown crowd, which he has not had the chance to do since October 2007.

The decision, though, is ultimately up to Gulutzan.

"I won't dress him just because he is a hometown guy, but I'll dress him if it is the right move to help us win," Gulutzan said.

This road trip is particularly important to the Wranglers (20-18-4), who have a chance to win their third consecutive game for the first time all season.

The Wranglers, who are just 6-10-2 on the road, would also like to make a statement against the second best team in the ECHL after the Salmon Kings took two of three games at the Orleans Arena last week.

"With them having a better team makes it a better game for us," Owens said. "We felt we outplayed them here, but it didn't go our way. Obviously we want to go up there and win that series."

Victoria and Las Vegas face off tonight at 7 p.m. in the Save on Foods Memorial Centre.

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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