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Brandon, Manitoba -- The Western Hockey League's Eastern Division leading Brandon Wheat Kings kick off the final week of pre-Christmas action Wednesday night when they travel to Prince Albert to take on the surging Raiders.

Winners of seven of their last nine games, Prince Albert has vaulted past Regina and into third place in the Eastern Division with a record of 13-15-2-2, good for 30 points. The Raiders currently trail second place Swift Current by five and the front running Wheat Kings by nine. The Raiders have been led by Winnipeg product Ryan DePape (13-20-33), Matt Robertson (16-8-24) and defencema Jeff May (6-15-21) while overage goalkeeper Jesse Deckert is 6-5-1 with a 3.07 goals against average since rejoining the team last month.

Despite losing a season high five straight games, the Wheat Kings have managed to stay on top of the division, thanks to collecting points in their last three - two overtime and one shootout defeat.

Brandon will be without three of their top offensive stars when they take to the ice tonight. While rookie right-winger Juraj Simek is in Switzerland preparing for the World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden, center Codey Burki and defenceman Dustin Kohn are attending the National Junior Selection Camp in Calgary.

Burki is currently second in league scoring with 21 goals and 50 points while Kohn is among the league leaders on defence. As for Simek, he is the third highest scoring rookie in the WHL this season and leads all first year players in goals with 22.

Kohn left for Calgary on Sunday, nursing a sore knee that had kept him out of the Brandon lineup for the first four games of the club's current losing streak. He is one of seven blueliners expected to battle for one of the two roster spots on the 2-time defending gold medal champions.

Following tonight's game, the Wheat Kings will play Regina in a weekend home and home series, beginning Friday night at the Keystone Centre. Friday is the annual Shoppers Mall Teddy Bear Toss. Fans are encouraged to bring a new stuffed animal to the game and when the Wheat Kings score their first goal, they can litter the ice with them. All stuffed animals collected from the ice will be donated to Christmas Cheer.

Tickets to Friday's Teddy Bear Toss are on sale now at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling 726-3555 or online at ticketmaster.ca

In other Wheat King related news, Brandon prospect Scott Glennie has been chosen Offensive Player of the Week in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League. A former second round draft choice of the Wheat Kings, the 15-year old center had four goals and 8 points for the Winnipeg Wild last week.

Brandon currently leads the WHL with fifteen Manitoba born players and fourteen of them are graduates of the Manitoba AAA Midget League, including former scoring champions Mark Derlago, Tyler Dittmer and Nathan Green.
 
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