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Cherry ready for exciting game

by Mike G. Morreale

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- The ever-loquacious Don Cherry met the media Wednesday morning to set the stage for what he believes will be an unforgettable matchup in the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) here at Metro Centre.

"I think, as coaches, we won't have a problem getting the kids up for the game, but we'll probably have to take them down a few notches," Cherry said after Team Cherry practice and a team photo. "After the first couple of shifts, you'll start to feel the hate but it takes a couple of shifts. I guarantee this will be a great game."

While Cherry will be offering some words of wisdom to his players prior to the game, he said assistant coaches Brian Kilrea, Bert O'Brien and Nick Kypreos will do much of the coaching.

"I'm there and I'll do a little bit, but you can't have 50 guys telling them what to do," he said. "Brian and Bert are the guys who will take charge out there. Brian Kilrea is the winningest coach in junior hockey. And you better not stay on your shift too long. I remember Daniel Briere [in the 1996 Top Prospects Game] staying out longer than he should have … holy smokes. And they're going to have Kypreos miked for this -- they better have a seven-second delay going on, I can tell you that."

Briere starred for the Drummondville Voltigeurs that season and had four assists to help Team Cherry to a 9-3 defeat of Team Orr at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. He was ultimately chosen by the Phoenix Coyotes with the 24th pick of the 1996 NHL Draft.

Cherry was asked about NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings and if he agreed with the placement of defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks at No. 1, ahead of Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads.

"I can't believe how good [Jones] is … he's like a 24-year-old and he's so poised," Cherry said. "You saw that with the Americans in World Juniors. But if you ask me for my opinion, I think MacKinnon is No. 1."

Cherry intends to have MacKinnon and his Halifax teammate, Jonathan Drouin, on the top line to open the game alongside American-born Ryan Hartman. Drouin is No. 3 on the midterm rankings.

"Drouin was supposed to be on the fourth line [at the WJC], and all of a sudden he was taking a regular shift over everybody," Cherry said. "I think that's really where he was able to shine and come to the forefront. Hartman will fit right in on that line and it'll be perfect.

"I've got a $100 bet with [Team Orr assistant coach] Doug MacLean and I'm ready to go."


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