Evan Polei has been in agony the last seven weeks and it’s had little to do with the pain from his lower body injury.
“It’s been awful sitting out. It’s been tough watching the guys play,” the Red Deer Rebels six-foot-one, 219-pound winger said Tuesday.
Polei, who has been absent from the Rebels lineup since Jan. 24, was involved in the warm-up skate prior to Saturday’s 5-3 win over the visiting Regina Pats, an indication that he’s close to returning. The burning question is, will he get the green light tonight against the visiting Saskatoon Blades?
“I feel like I’m ready. I’ve had a lot of good skates the last week or two and I’ve been in one contact practice,” he said. “I could have played last weekend. That would have left me a week short (of the estimated time of return) but it’s now a little closer to that eight-week mark the doctor gave me. We’re about seven and a half weeks now.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt suggested that Polei’s status won’t be decided until closer to game time tonight.
“We don’t know yet if he’ll play,” said Truitt. “He’s close, it’s just going to be a matter of whether we want to put him into a game now or on the weekend, or whenever. He’s a question mark for tomorrow.”
Truitt understands that Polei is itching to get back into action.
“He’s a competitive guy who has done everything that he needs to do for now, but the time has to be right for us as well in making sure that he’s 100 per cent and not just 90,” said Truitt.
Polei is at least on the brink of returning, while captain and team-leading goal-scorer Conner Bleackley and defenceman Colton Bobyk, both sidelined with lower body injuries, might be out another week or more. Both are listed as day-to-day but it’s possible that Bleackley, at least, won’t return until the start of the playoffs in two and a half weeks time.
With the Rebels, who have six regular-season games remaining, sitting third in the Central Division with little chance of catching either Calgary or Medicine Hat or being caught by the Kootenay Ice, the coaching staff may decide that their best forward would be better served as a spectator until the arrival of the post-season.
Then again, he could be back sooner than later.
“Again, we want to make sure he’s 100 per cent before he goes, too,” said Truitt. “With that being said, we have to test him out in all different facets . . . turns and accelerations, stress, pushing and things like that. He has to be completely ready and in game shape. It’s Game 67 (tonight) and we want to make sure he’s 100 per cent as well.
“He’s been skating, he’s doing more and more every day. In speaking with him, his pain seems to be minimizing, which is a great thing. That’s the reason we’re doing a bit more every day. We’ll see where he is after the weekend (following home games versus the Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice Friday and Saturday).”
As for Bobyk . . .
“He’s close as well,” said Truitt. “It’s just a matter with all of these guys . . . skating is one thing, getting in more practice time with your teammates is another. We just came off a road trip and he’ll probably need a couple more practices.”
Bleackley was injured Feb. 6 and has missed 14 games. Bobyk has been out of commission since Feb. 18 and has sat for 10 games.