It will be a hurtin’ Red Deer Rebels squad that faces the Medicine Hat Tigers tonight at the Centrium.
The Rebels will head into their final game prior to the Christmas break minus the services of four top-six forwards in Rhyse Dieno, Dominik Volek, Brooks Maxwell and Matt Bellerive, while forwards Grayson Pawlenchuk and Christian Stockl will also remain out of the lineup.
Dieno suffered an upper-body injury in last Tuesday’s 6-0 loss at Lethbridge and has missed two games, Volek is overseas with the Czech Republic national junior team, Maxwell was hurt in the early stages of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Lethbridge and didn’t return, and Bellerive has missed the last eight games with a lower body ailment.
With the exception of Volek and Stockl, who’s out indefintely, Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt expects all to be back for the club’s first game after Christmas — Dec. 27 versus the visiting Calgary Hitmen.
“Dieno has to go through the protocol,” said Truitt, basically revealing the identity of the injury. “We’ve run out of time with him. He has to get into a contact practice first and we don’t have that time.”
Pawlenchuk, who underwent surgery for a broken elbow in early October, is also ticketed to return Dec. 27. In the event that Maxwell is not available on that date, his return date will likely stretch into early January.
“We’re hoping for Dec. 27 for Maxie. Otherwise it will be in the New Year,” said Truitt. “If everything goes status quo and goes well, we’ll be able to get a lot of guys back in the lineup as soon as we come back from Christmas.
“This is an important time for these guys, too. Their off ice stuff has gone real well, now they’re in that transition phase of going on the ice and getting into game shape. Unfortunately, because of the time frame we won’t have a lot of time (before the Dec. 27 game) once we come back. Their time at home here will be key.”
With midget AAA affiliate Brayden Burke set to make his Rebels regular-season debut and Earl Webb sticking around while on loan from the AJHL Calgary Mustangs, Truitt and assistant coach Steve O’Rourke will run with 11 forwards and seven rearguards tonight.
Burke, Red Deer’s seventh-round pick in the 2012 WHL bantam draft, is a five-foot-nine, 165-pound forward who currently sits second in Alberta Midget League scoring with 11 goals and 31 points in 22 games with the Edmonton Canadian Athletic Club. Burke is one point ahead of another Rebels’ prospect, fellow forward Mason McCarty (16-14-30 in 22 games) of the UFA Bisons.
The Rebels got extra minutes Saturday from supporting cast forwards Meyer Nell, who scored the shootout winner, Cole Chorney and Adam Musil, and Truitt is expecting more of the same tonight.
“Our third-line guys, in particular, played pretty well for us the other night,” he said.
While the Rebels are short-handed, Truitt sees a silver lining in the unfortunate situation.
“This is where the opportunity knocks for our younger players, this is where you have to embrace these types of situations,” said Truitt. “They’ve been with us for a long period of time, they’ve settled into some roles and now they get a little bigger role.
“This is a great part of their development.”