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Les Canadiennes make first trip to China for four games

The trip is important in the playoff picture

Shanna Martin

Les Canadiennes landed in Hong Kong on their way to Shenzhen, China after a 15 hour flight early Saturday morning and get set to face off against the Vanke Rays and Kunlun Red Star for four games that could make or break their hold on first place in the CWHL.

Montreal is currently in a good position, but only one North American team has won games in China this season, the Calgary Inferno, who went 3-0-1 on their trip.

CWHL Standings

TEAM GP W L OTL PTS GF GA
TEAM GP W L OTL PTS GF GA
MONTREAL 22 19 3 0 38 103 47
KUNLUN 23 17 5 1 35 76 42
CALGARY 22 15 3 4 34 82 49
VANKE 23 12 10 1 25 68 80
MARKHAM 23 9 7 7 25 56 63
TORONTO 25 7 16 2 16 47 94
BOSTON 22 1 18 3 5 35 92

(The CWHL season is 28 games. Top four teams get into the playoffs and the semi-finals are 1v4 and 2v3.)

Montreal swept the three games they played against the Vanke Rays in Montreal, but will have to battle jet lag in the first two games. The first one goes Sunday morning at 1:30 a.m. Eastern.

The two teams will be coming off of their Olympic break, and while the Olympics are over, they may not have any changes to the lineup. Marie-Philip Poulin, Melodie Daoust and Lauriane Rougeau have just finished a gruelling Olympic year, and it remains to be seen whether they will return at any point, nevermind just days after their tournament ended.

The team should be at relatively full strength. A look at the team picture at the Hong Kong airport shows most players have made the trip with some notable exceptions. Karell Emard and Erin Ambrose are expected to join the team in China, while Caroline Ouellette was never really expected to make the trip. Cassandra Poudrier is not in the picture, and has been out since before the break with an injury. There is no official word of her status.

With Ouellette out, Noémie Marin has a chance to become the CWHL's all-time leading goal scorer. Ouellette got her record-breaking 131st goal in Boston, but Marin got her 130th goal in the same game and she will be taking part in the games in China.

The games against the Kunlun Red Star will be very important, and Kunlun will look different from when they were in Montreal. The team has added Alex Carpenter, who was a surprise cut from Team USA and she joins Kelli Stack. She replaced Annina Rajahuhta on the roster. The team also has Noora Räty in goal, but after she backstopped Finland to a Bronze medal, her status for the week is up in the air.

Carpenter has five goals and four assists in five games this season. Stack leads the entire CWHL with 24 goals and 18 assists for 42 points in 23 games.

Kunlun won two of the three games in Montreal, including the game at the Bell Centre on November 11.

Schedule

February 25, 1:30 a.m. (EST): Canadiennes vs. Vanke Rays
February 26, 6:30 a.m. (EST): Canadiennes vs. Vanke Rays
February 28, 6:30 a.m. (EST): Canadiennes vs. Kunlun Red Star
March 2, 6:30 a.m. (EST): Canadiennes vs. Kunlun Red Star

All games will be streamed live for free here. Commentary will be in Chinese.

Players to Watch

Les Canadiennes
Ann-Sophie Bettez: 22 GP, 17G-15A-32P (3rd in CWHL)
Noémie Marin: 20 GP, 15G-10A-25P
Sarah Lefort: 22 GP, 13G-12A-25P
Katia Clement-Heydra: 22 GP, 12G-13A-25P
Karell Emard: 22 GP, 7G-14A-21P
Erin Ambrose: 11 GP, 1G-11A-12P
Emerance Maschmeyer: 15-2, 1.76 GAA, .922 sv%

Vanke Rays
Cayley Mercer: 23 GP, 12G-23A-35P (2nd in CWHL)
Ashleigh Brykaliuk: 23 GP, 8G-17A-25P
Brooke Webster: 21 GP, 9G-15A-24P
Hanna Bunton: 23 GP, 14G-9A-23P
Elaine Chuli: 12-9-1, 2.87 GAA, .915 sv%

Kunlun Red Star
Kelli Stack: 23 GP, 24G-18A-42P (1st in CWHL)
Zoe Hickel: 23 GP, 8G-23A-31P
Jessica Wong: 23GP, 7G-12A-19P
Alex Carpenter: 8GP, 5G-4A-9P
Noora Räty: 13-3, 1.52 GAA, .947 sv%
Yuqing Wang: 3-1-1, 2.17 GAA, .892 sv%