VANCOUVER — It's a good thing the B.C. Lions feel they're at home on the road.
B.C. (5-3) enters a delicate portion of its regular-season schedule with a road contest against the Ottawa Redblacks (4-3-1) on Thursday. It's the first of two straight games away from B.C. Place Stadium against East Division opponents as the Lions will also visit the Toronto Argonauts (4-4) on Aug. 31.
B.C. has played consecutive away games against East Division teams in the past but will remain on the road after the Ottawa contest. It's the first time since 2003 that the Lions under coach/GM Wally Buono have altered their East Division travel formula, which is why they've been preparing for the logistical challenges associated with this trip for several weeks.
Although the Lions will continue to face returning East Division starting quarterbacks on their trip and have two improving West Division teams creeping closer to them in the standings, playing on the road couldn't have come at a better time.
East Division teams have a combined 4-11-1 home record so far with no club having more than one win in friendly territory. The Lions are 3-1 on the road and have played considerably better than in games at B.C. Place Stadium.
"For where we're right now, I'd rather have this (schedule)," said Lions veteran defensive back Ryan Phillips, who wasn't with the team the last time it stayed on the road for back-to-back games. “To do this at the midpoint of the season, it could help us in Week 15 and 16."
The Lions haven't yet organized any formal team activities for their weekend stay in Ottawa but Phillips said he'd like to arrange a night for the Lions at an Ottawa bowling alley.
Getting on the road to bond might be a benefit after the Lions' disheartening 37-9 home loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Friday. It was a game billed as a first-place showdown but turned out to be a dud for B.C.
The Lions are 10-12 at B.C. Place Stadium since the end of the 2013 season. Calgary held B.C. to no offensive touchdowns for the fourth time in the last six regular-season and playoff meetings.
"We have to show more intensity and be more passionate about what we're doing," said Lions quarterback Jon Jennings, who was pulled against Calgary and has been unproductive during his last five quarters of work.
After narrowly surviving the return of Zach Collaros to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Aug. 13, the Lions must contend with Trevor Harris coming back to Ottawa's offence. B.C. defeated the Ticats 45-38 but Collaros threw for 331 yards and two TDs in his first game after suffering a serious knee injury last September.
Harris returns under centre for Ottawa after suffering a leg injury in the club's 30-29 loss to Saskatchewan on July 22.
And when B.C. faces Toronto, it's expected veteran quarterback Ricky Ray will play for the Argos after missing three games with a knee injury.
"Frankly, we were preparing for both (Harris and Henry Burris) this week," Lions defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington said. "Sometimes you just draw those types of cards."
Defensive tackle Mich'ael Brooks will return to the Lions' lineup Thursday after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. B.C. will also switch from former Ottawa tailback Jeremiah Johnson to Anthony Allen in the backfield.
The Lions will also start their third different short-side defensive halfback this season against the Redblacks. Anthony Gaitor will replace Steven Clarke, who was lost for the season last week with a suspected torn ACL.
B.C. will head on the road second in the West Division standings but just two points ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos. The Lions have yet to face either divisional opponent this season.