OK, Steve, we took a week off for the holidays but we’re back for our first interview of 2009. Lots of people are telling me that I’m clearly the brains of this Q & A, that I make you look good, but I couldn’t do it without you. It’s like I’m the Fonz and you’re Potsie. There’s no ”Happy Days” without both of us. On to the questions with Steve, the Voice of the Thunder.
KL: Did you see I’m periodically giving out Thunder tickets to readers who answer trivia questions correctly on my blog? Seriously, doesn’t my benevolence astound you?
Schuster: Actually, I read the post and from what I can gather, the Eagle is giving the tickets away.
KL: You had to look up “benevolence” didn’t you?
Schuster: I did. But if you were hoping your picture was next to the word, you’re out of luck.
KL: After Saturday, I think the Thunder is something like 4-0 in games I don’t cover. I am starting to take this a bit personally.
Schuster: We may have to start using Brooks (your replacement reporter) as a good-luck charm. Several baseball teams did this with Garth Brooks a few years back.
KL: OK, enough questions about me. Recap the fights for me from Saturday night.
Schuster: 2-0-1…Connor MacDonald held his own against Fraser Filipic, who was voted the best fighter in the league pound-for-pound last year. Neither one was brought down to the ice, so I’d call it a draw. Filipic gave MacDonald a pat on the back afterwards which was classy. Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Tobler, two of the biggest heavyweights in the league went at it, and I’d give the nod to Bernier who dodged a left hook from Tobler before dropping him to the ice. After Jordan Hack demolished Jay Birnie into the boards, Birnie tried to chase down Hack, but Stan Yanchishyn intervened. This one didn’t last too long, and rumor has it that Stan broke his nose.
KL: I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the importance of Jason Duda this season. Your thoughts.
Schuster: You asked me who the most irreplaceable player was a while back and I said Duda. That hasn’t changed. He just knows how to make things happen. Coach Bilodeau has tweaked the lines throughout the season, and the guys who have played with Duda always seem to get better. The team is a combined -60 with Duda is +11. That says a lot about what he means to the team.
KL: I don’t think many would have predicted that Troy Ofukany would be the team’s highest scoring rookie. Plus, he’ll drop the gloves now and then too. What do you like about his game?
Schuster: He does a little bit of everything. Might remind you of a young Rob Weingartner. I’m really not surprised by his recent scoring surge. He had very solid numbers in the WHL, and players from that league tend to do well in the pros. Along with Greg Cassista, I definitely think he’s been the most improved rookie as the season has progressed. He has gotten better and better each game in terms of both skill and physical play. He’s a Gordie Howe hat trick threat every night.
KL: Arizona is 13th in the league in goals against. Do you look for the Thunder to continue its recent offensive surge on Tuesday night?
Schuster: It appears to be a favorable matchup from an offensive standpoint. That being said, the Sundogs have one of the best offenses in the league themselves, so it could be a very high scoring battle.