The Red Deer Rebels’ injury woes continue.
Veteran forward Conner Bleackley was helped off the ice during Saturday’s 4-1 WHL win over the visiting Everett Silvertips with an apparent leg injury and on Monday it was confirmed that he’ll be out of commission for six weeks with a fractured kneecap.
Bleackley experienced a slow start to the season but was impressive in recent weeks to the point where he had risen to third in team scoring with 13 goals and 41 points in 47 games.
“In the last two to three weeks his game was certainly starting to come around and was closer to where we expect it to be,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
The injury is just one of many of the long-term variety that have afflicted the Rebels this season. Josh Mahura appeared in two games before undergoing knee surgery, Kayle Doetzel was out for a lengthy period with a lower body injury and Braden Purtill, Taden Rattie, Adam Musil and Evan Poeli have all been out for extensive spans with upper body ailments.
Luke Philp is also inactive, although the overage centre — acquired from the Kootenay Ice Jan. 3 — is expected to return from ankle surgery in the next two weeks.
“It’s tough, we’re counting the days until we get Luke back and all of a sudden Bleacks goes down,” said Sutter. “It’s been one of those years where we’ve had lots of injuries, and lots of tough injuries with guys out for a month to six weeks.
“We haven’t got a break on that side of it, but that’s the way it goes. We have to keep fighting through it … weathering through it.”
Bleackley will almost certainly be back prior to the playoffs in late March and Mahura could return before the beginning of the post season.
“You just wish you could have some games with your full lineup,” said Sutter. “We haven’t had one game like that yet this year. That’s what’s been troublesome — that we can’t get a real strong feel for our team.
“We haven’t been healthy, but what’s getting us by is our depth. When you consider the injuries we’ve had, we certainly can’t argue with where we are in the standings.”
Sutter expects Philp to be available for duty within 10 days to two weeks, while Rattie should be back — from a fractured fighter — either by this weekend or the following week.
The Rebels conclude a five-game homestand with Friday and Saturday meetings with the Ice and Bra