After a win and a loss last weekend, the Idaho Falls Spud Kings prepare for a triple-header this weekend, with all games being played at Mountain America Center in Idaho Falls.

The first visitors of the weekend are the last-place Rock Springs Grizzlies, who come to town Thursday. The last meeting between the two teams was Jan. 27 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, when Spud Kings head coach John Becanic recorded his first win with the team.

These two teams play each other once more this season when the Spud Kings head to Rock Springs on March 16.

Following the Grizzlies’ visit, the Provo Predators come to Idaho Falls for a back-to-back set. The Spud Kings have won the last three meetings between the two teams, including a 7-6 comeback overtime win on Feb. 3.

The Idaho Falls Spud Kings play the Provo Predators twice this weekend.

The Idaho Falls Spud Kings play the Provo Predators twice this weekend. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

The Spud Kings sit five points behind the Predators in the NCDC Mountain Division standings with the same amount of games played. The two teams play each other four more times this year, so the Spud Kings have an opportunity to pass them for third place.

What to expect from the Grizzlies

With seven wins in 43 games this year, things have not been great for the Grizzlies. One of those wins came from a shootout on Saturday against the Predators.

Peyton Smith leads the team in goals and points with 12 and 24, respectively. Tucker Inabinet leads both teams in save percentage as he got traded to the Spud Kings halfway through the year. Mathis Thirion is now the Grizzlies’ top goaltender with a .862 save percentage and a 4.00 goals against average.

The playoffs have been unrealistic for the Grizzlies for some time, so their goals are likely centered around player development and loss mitigation. Don’t expect them to willingly hand the win to the Spud Kings, but if the Spud Kings want to make the playoffs, beating the Grizzlies is a must.

What to expect from the Predators

As mentioned, the Spud Kings have bested the Predators in each of their last three contests. If there’s any team the Predators want to beat, it’s the Spuds.

Forward Lucca Ori has been hot all year for the Predators, leading the team in goals and points. Defenseman Jackson Lucia has led the charge from the back end, leading the team in assists.

Michael Polston deserves much of the credit for the Predators’ success this year, posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.70 goals against average. If Polston starts either or both games this weekend, the Predators could have a good shot at success.

Michael Polston has had an excellent season for the Provo Predators.

Michael Polston has had an excellent season for the Provo Predators. Photo credit: Will Vasseur

What to expect from the Spud Kings

Ever since the departure of George Goodwin, the Spud Kings have struggled to put the puck in the net. DJ MacLeish, a defenseman, has more than double as many points as the next-highest scorer, Matvei Naumov.

Becanic talked about depth scoring as a key to victory after Saturday night’s win over the Pueblo Bulls.

“We score by committee,” Becanic said. “That was the difference for us tonight.”

One of those goal scorers was newcomer Andrew Schmidt, whom the Spud Kings acquired largely because of his size. Becanic has deployed Schmidt in key offensive situations in the last few games. Expect his ice time to increase — or at least remain consistent — on the powerplay and with the goalie pulled.

Becanic also mentioned that he does not like labeling his lines as first, second, third and fourth. He said that he prefers to spread out the talent so that he has offensive threats and defensive security on every line.

One key to success for the Spud Kings will be maximizing the output of every player on the roster, as they have done since Becanic’s arrival.

Where to watch

Tickets, if available, can be purchased on the Spud Kings’ website and at the Bingham Healthcare Box Office at Mountain America Center.

Fans can also watch all three games on FloHockey.TV, which is available with a subscription.