With a receiving corps thinned by injuries, the Calgary Stampeders (12-3) laboured moving the ball in a 26-21 loss at home to B.C. in Week 18.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-6) are coming off a loss in which they did not score a single point against Winnipeg.
Saturday’s victor at McMahon Stadium will improve its playoff picture.
The Stampeders can clinch first in the West Division for the fourth time in five years, thus earning a bye to hosting the division final at McMahon.
At stake for the Roughriders is a home playoff date and staying in mathematical contention to unseat Calgary atop the division. The teams went 1-1 in two meetings in Regina this season.
“Very important game for us because it can decide division and season series,” Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said Friday.
He won’t have the CFL’s sack leader hunting him Saturday.
A day after Roughriders head coach Chris Jones said defensive end Charleston Hughes would play, Hughes was pulled from the team’s active roster Friday and fined the maximum disciplinary amount allowed.
Hughes was arrested and charged Oct. 11 with impaired driving and failing to provide a breath sample for analysis.
“We came to the decision between the league, myself, our president, that this was the best course of action to basically do what we’re going this week and not allowing Charleston to join us here,” Jones said.
Read Jones’ comments to the media here.
So Saskatchewan will be without of the league’s most feared pass rushers Saturday.
“It helps us,” Mitchell acknowledged. “Charleston is great player and leading the league in sacks.”
With receivers Marken Michel (shoulder), Kamar Jorden (knee), DaVaris Daniels (collarbone) and Reggie Begelton (arm) all on Calgary’s six-game injured list, Mitchell has been throwing to some inexperienced catchers.
Calgary had a short week of prep before facing the Lions. Slotback Eric Rogers missed most of it because he was in California for the birth of his child.
Wideout Chris Matthews made his Stampeder debut against B.C. just over a week after he was signed.
Mitchell said he was able to cram quality homework in with his receivers this week.
“Definitely some catching up happened and we should be better this week,” the quarterback said.
“Reps is the most important thing. It allows us to talk some things over and guys understand how I like certain things and I need to know how they like certain things.”
Roughriders starter Zach Collaros completed just eight of 19 passes for 69 yards and was intercepted twice by the Blue Bombers before he was yanked in the second half.
Backup Brandon Bridge fared little better, going 7-for-12 in passing for 59 yards. Saskatchewan ran just six offensive plays in Winnipeg territory.
“Score some touchdowns every now and again, kick some field goals, that’s the type of thing we’ve got to do in order to have a chance to win the football team,” Jones said.
“Like I told our players, we didn’t just accidently win 10 football games. We won 10 football games because we do things right.”
Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson chose not to hurry Bakari Grant into Saturday’s lineup after Calgary signed the receiver earlier this week.
Grant compiled 1,033 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the Roughriders in 2017 before he was released in training camp.
“We have to make sure to get him in shape and get him up to speed,” Dickenson explained. “If you haven’t played football for basically four months, it’s hard.”
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (10-6) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (12-3)
Saturday, McMahon Stadium
NO HUGHES, NO FUSE – Mitchell could get a few extra seconds with the football without Hughes pursuing him. The Stampeder quarterback needs 216 passing yards for 5,000 this season.
RETURNER RETURNS – Terry Williams’ wrist injury not as serious as initially thought, the CFL leader in kick return touchdowns (3) can help Calgary’s field position. Saskatchewan’s Alexandre Gagne leads the league in special teams tackles (20), however.
GANG GREEN – The Roughriders’ first visit to McMahon this season, the game stakes and the number of Saskatchewan ex-pats in Calgary will inject a lot of green into the red in the stands at McMahon.