Justin Kirkland is back in the Kelowna lineup after missing nine weeks with a lower body injury

Lengthy absence over for Kirkland

Rockets forward returned Friday vs Victoria for his first game since Feb. 14

Last Friday night’s playoff matchup against the Victoria Royals wasn’t just another game for Justin Kirkland.

The Kelowna Rockets’ forward was playing for the first time in more than two months after suffering what turned out to be a stubborn and slow-to-heal lower body injury on Feb. 14.

The Camrose, AB native is, not surprisingly, thrilled to be back after sitting out the longest stretch of his junior career.

“It was tough watching the guys, not being able to compete with them,” said Kirkland, who had an assist in his team’s series clinching 7-3 win over the Royals.

“I was pretty nervous, it was a big game and there was a lot on the line. Honestly, there were nerves, but after the first couple of shifts, I took a hit and I gave a hit, got back in the game and it kind of felt like I’d never been away.”

Kirkland’s greatest fear during his extended absence was the prospects of missing his team’s entire playoff run.

Now the 6-foot-3, 188-pound forward is thrilled to be back in the mix in time for the Western Conference final against Portland.

“There never is a good time to be out, it’s tough missing playoffs, I mean you never know what can happen with the team,” said Kirkland. “I’ve gotta thank the guys for getting through the first couple of rounds and giving me a chance to come back and play.

“I’m really looking forward to this next series (with Portland),” he said. “It should be exciting…a hard-fought series between two good teams.”

Based on the length of his absence, head coach Dan Lambert said Kirkland did an admirable job of fitting back into the Rockets lineup.

“Anybody who sits out that long is not going to just jump out there and be right back where they were,” said Lambert. “Having said that, I thought he looked good, he had an assist and got his feet back under him again. It’s good to have him back.”

Kirkland’s return gives the Rockets one of healthiest lineups they’ve had in months, with  only forward Tanner Wishnowski remaining on the sidelines.

 

Just Posted

Okanagan RCMP look for owners of various keys located during arrest

RCMP seek to reunite the owners of various keys found at the arrest of suspects in a stolen vehicle.

Bumper ripped off Kelowna taxi in accident

The accident happened along Harvey Avenue

Lake Country bunny sanctuary needs your help to get hay

The non-profit is in the finals for The Great Hay Giveback

Kelowna offering money for good neighbourhood ideas

City says it has grant funding available for its Strong Neighbourhoods program

Okanagan College dives into cannabis courses

The college has adapted its programs in Kelowna

Watch it again: Kelowna mayoral candidates square off

Missing the LIVE Kelowna mayoral debate watch now

Okanagan RCMP look for owners of various keys located during arrest

RCMP seek to reunite the owners of various keys found at the arrest of suspects in a stolen vehicle.

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

After 50 years, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer retiring

The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Parole denied for convicted killer-rapist Paul Bernardo after 25 years in prison

Paul Bernardo plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison.

Man holds newborn son for first time after devastating B.C. racetrack crash

Kayden was born the day after Jonathan was crushed by car at speedway

Smooth start to legal cannabis in B.C., Mike Farnworth says

Online and government store makes 4,000 sales by noon

Kootenkoff: Sexual Harassment at Work

—By Susan Kootnekoff It changes lives. Perhaps it has happened to you.… Continue reading

Most Read