A ray of sunshine was cast upon the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday when they learned that captain Adam Kambeitz could be back in uniform in perhaps a week’s time.
You can’t say they weren’t deserving of some good news.
“Kambeitz has been cleared to start skating. He’s probably a little ahead of schedule,” said Rebels GM/head coach Jesse Wallin, who lost one of his top two centres to a high ankle sprain in January.
As a result, Kambeitz will likely accompany the Rebels on a four-game road trip that starts Friday at Prince Albert. The club left this morning after a skate at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.
“We’ll see how he responds to being on the ice today and tomorrow” said Wallin prior to Wednesday’s practice session at the Multiplex. “If he’s OK he’ll come with us. He won’t be able to play (on the trip) but we want to get him on the ice and get him back going that way.”
Meanwhile, defenceman Kayle Doetzel (ribs) was examined by a doctor Tuesday and will remain out of the lineup for at least two more weeks, forward Colten Major is still two to three weeks away from returning from thumb and wrist injuries and forward Cory Millette will miss the first two games of the trip with an undisclosed ailment.
In addition, forward Joel Hamilton (back) remains out indefinitely, while defenceman Justin Weller (wrist) and goaltender Patrik Bartosak (shoulder) have been ruled as out for the season, a category that likely includes rearguard Aaron Borejko (concussion). As for his chances of getting affiliated players into the lineup for the road trip, Wallin is in tough.
“It’s a scary thing . . it’s never happened to us before but we’ve just about maxed out our affiliates,” he said, in reference to the five-game rule for affiliate players.
The fact that midget playoffs are on the verge of starting also makes it difficult to secure the services of the prospects, although Wallin is hopeful of using forwards Dexter Bricker and Trace Elson on the trip, and possibly 15-year-old blueliner Haydn Fleury. Promising forward Conner Bleackley, 15, has already appeared in his allowed five WHL games but will be eligible to join the team when and if his UFA Bisons are eliminated from the Alberta Midget League playoffs.
Otherwise, the Rebels will continue with most of the players who guided the club through last week’s four-game B.C. swing that netted five points. Red Deer is in tough in its bid for an Eastern Conference playoff berth but aren’t throwing in the towel despite being severely short of bodies.
“As a coaching staff we’re really proud of the way the guys are digging in. For being so short-handed, they’ve worked very hard,” said Wallin.
“We’re not out of (the playoff race) yet. We want to make it hard on every team that we play and continue to chip away and get points. We realize it’s a big hill to climb but we’re going to keep trying to climb it and see where it takes us.”
Wallin insisted the team is not in desperation mode despite being eight points removed from a post-season berth.
“More than anything, guys are just really trying to enjoy themselves,” he said. “We know we’re in a tough spot and putting pressure on ourselves isn’t going to help at this point. We’re just trying to make sure that our effort is there every night and that the guys are playing hard and really just enjoying the game.
“At this point that’s the only way we’re going to give ourselves a chance. We have a lot of young guys in the lineup who are playing well because they’re having fun out there. That’s where we’re at right now.”
The Rebels are in Saskatoon Saturday, then visit Moose Jaw and Regina Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home for a Friday date with Swift Current.