It’s a rare Friday off for the Kelowna Rockets — exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that has been bitten hard by the injury bug.
“We hope this run of serious injuries is coming to an end,” said Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton.
According to the Rockets, the franchise has lost a total of 117 man-games to injury and illness this season.
“Our belief in our team is still very strong and we have not used the injuries as an excuse. We need to be better and I fully expect us to be better,” Hamilton said.
“It hasn’t been scuffs, we have had a number of serious injuries,” Hamilton said.
It all started early in the season when key veteran Kyle Topping broke his ankle and was forced to have surgery.
Topping actually made a swift recovery and returned to the ice in early January and is just now starting to find his scoring touch.
Dillon Hamaliuk was forced to sit several games due to a virus but has since returned.
“We’re finally starting to see a little more out of him,” Hamilton said.
Another Rocket veteran Liam Kindree missed several games in the first half of the season only to return and suffer a broken collarbone in mid-January.
Kindree is currently undergoing rehab for his surgically repaired collarbone with no date yet for a return to the team.
On top of that, forward Michael Farren is also out while the Rockets follow the CHL’s stringent concussion protocol with him.
“We’re waiting on him but those (concussions) are things (where) you walk, you don’t run,” Hamilton said.
Defenceman Sean Comrie is out with a dislocated shoulder and scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon next week to decide if surgery will be needed.
But perhaps the most costly injury of all this season has been the to team captain Nolan Foote.
Foote is the heart and soul of the Rockets as well as arguably their best player.
The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect has been listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury since leaving a game against the Kamloops Blazers in early January.
Foote, who was drafted in the first round by the Lightning, was evaluated by their medical staff last week and any decision clearing him to play for the Rockets will be made in consultation with the NHL franchise.
“We are hoping to see if I can play Saturday and get into the lineup,” Foote said Thursday before practice.
The decision on Foote’s return is day-to-day, Hamilton said.
“I think over these next two days practising and doing that and then seeing how I feel Saturday after morning skate, if we have it, and then go from there,” Foote said.
All these injuries take have taken a serious toll on the Rocket’s record.
Kelowna is currently fourth in the B.C. Division standings with a record of 24-25-1-2 for 51 points, six back of the third-place Vancouver Giants.
There was some good news for the team on Wednesday as Matthew Wedman and Devin Steffler made a return to the Rockets’ fold.
Wedman’s impact was immediate as he scored a hat trick in the Rockets’ 8-3 drubbing of the Tri-City Americans.
Hamilton remains positive, despite an onslaught of negativity on social media, that his team will be ready to host the Memorial Cup in May.
“I’m not a social media guy, but there is all kinds of stuff going on there. Our team will be competitive by the time the cup comes around,” Hamilton said.