LEWISTON — With the battle for positioning in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings heating up as teams have fewer than 20 regular-season games remaining, the fact that the Lewiston Maineiacs are playing seven of their next eight games at home is important.

“I think it’s nice to have some home games here, not to be on the bus and travel too much,” Maineiacs’ coach J.F. Houle said. “Hopefully we can get on a roll here and get on the winning track.”

The Maineiacs have been hot and cold of late. They are 7-3 in their past 10 contests, but have split the last four. A pair of home games this weekend begins the home stretch for Lewiston, as it will host Rimouski on Friday and Chicoutimi on Sunday.

The Oceanic have struggled this season more than they likely expected. They’ve fallen to 24-24-1-1 after a loss to Lewiston Sunday and another to Quebec on Wednesday.

“Rimouski lost the last game, and we know they’ll be all fired up,” Houle said. “(Former Lewiston coach) Clem (Jodoin) likes coming back here to play, so I’m sure he’ll have his team ready to play us.

“It’s always a challenge to play teams back to back, because, if you’re the winning team, you don’t want a let-down from the team,” Houle added. “You have to make sure you’re prepared. It’s a little different, you know how they play, and you can adjust to it.”

The Oceanic have talented players remaining on the roster, despite trading all-star defenseman Ryan Kavanagh at the deadline. Four of the team’s players — Jakub Culek (Ottawa), Gleason Fournier (Detroit), Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (Buffalo), Petr Straka (Columbus) — are NHL-drafted.

Sunday, the Maineiacs will entertain the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.

“Chicoutimi has been hot and cold,” Houle said. “They’ve had some good games and some bad games, but they always seem to play hard against us. They have a couple guys who used to be here in Lewiston, and they play hard.”

According to Houle, the Maineiacs are as healthy as they have been all season. Both Russian-born players, forward Kirill Kabanov and goalie Andrey Makarov, sat out practice Wednesday with an illness, but other than that, the Maineiacs are at full strength, which bodes well for the squad.

This season, instead of a single line leading the team in scoring, the team has done well to share the wealth. That, Houle said, makes them that much more dangerous.

“It’s been pretty spread out for most of the year,” Houle said. “One game, you have three different guys scoring, another game you have three others, so it’s nice to have on a team. At any given time, if a line is going well, they can score a lot of goals. It’s a great asset.”

Friday’s game is set for a 7 p.m. faceoff, with Sunday’s game under way at 4 p.m.


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