The Kristianstad Predators who currently sit sixth in the Swedish standings, play host to the fourth place Örebro Black Knights today in a do or die game for the Predators. Kristianstad needs to win this game, and win it by four points or more in order to have a chance to make the playoffs. They lost 9-6 to the Black Knights in late June. If they lose this one they have no chance to make the playoffs. Örebro on the other hand can lose and still make the playoffs by winning their final two games of the year.
Predators head coach Jon Walker is well aware of the implications for his team today:
“We need to beat these guys by a touchdown to make the playoffs. This is a do or die game for us. The last time we played them at their place their defense played great and our guys seemed to suffer from the long bus ride. We had a few injuries but we are healthy now and rested.”
Quarterback Philip Juhlin has not played since that dismal Sunday in Örebro when the Black Knights scheme stymied him time and again forcing him to throw off balance most of the afternoon. Örebro’s defensive ends and linebackers kept him from getting outside and upfield all game long.
His offensive line has healed up though after being on a break since that June 28 game. Sweden’s top receiver, Marcus Johnson will get more help in this game as Sorin Pondrea will see more of the ball to take the pressure off of Johnson.
Defensive lineman Charles Ryan, who suffered an ankle injury in that last game is back and healthy and he anchors Kristianstad’s four man front but he can attack from almost any spot on the line. He also steps in at running back and is tough to bring down. Middle linebacker 19 year old Alaudin Azemi faced Örebro’s running backs all game long and will need more help from his teammates in this game. The Black Knights were able to keep Kristianstad’s high scoring offense off the field with their power running game in the last contest.
Cornerback Marcus Persson did not have a lot to do in the last game as Örebro does not throw the ball much but the young defender still leads the league with six interceptions.
Black Knights head coach Randy Beverly welcomes back Finnish national team running back Veikka Lehtonen:
“He is truly a welcome addition as he adds an elusiveness to the running game and complements Anton Kallvik very well. He can explode off of either foot and has got soft hands.”
Defensively for the Black Knights, the Murphy twins – Eric and Josh – have been outstanding and both are highly mobile. Fellow linebacker Mike Kafagas, leads the league in tackles giving Örebro arguably the top linebacking corp in the country. Defensive ends Milos Lisanin and Aleksi Nystrom were able to get pressure on Juhlin in the previous game so Kristianstad’s offensive tackles will have to keep them in check to have a chance at winning.
The Black Knights secondary with Johan Stal as their leader and starting corner will have their hands full trying to keep Philip Juhlin and the Predators receivers in check.
Black Knights quarterback Grant Welp has bought into Beverly’s power running scheme, but Kristianstad cannot get comfortable in “packing the box” as Welp can throw having grown up playing in a spread offense.
The game has all the makings of a playoff match up as there is so much at stake for both teams.