Brad Ralph knew injuries would be a factor at some point during the Western Hockey League season.
The Kelowna Rockets’ head coach just didn’t count on being without two of his main offensive threats at the 20-game mark.
The defending WHL champs are missing arguably two of their top four forwards as centres Rourke Chartier and Dillon Dube are both sidelined with upper body injuries for the next one to two weeks.
“When you’re down two centremen, that leaves some significant holes to fill,” said Ralph, who is also without forward Riley Stadel for several weeks due to a hand injury.
“You need to call on your wingers to play up the middle, so there are adjustments. But at the same time, we’re fortunate that we have good hockey players on our team who are adaptable.”
The Rockets (14-5-1-0) depth will be tested again Wednesday when they visit one of the WHL’s hottest teams, the Kamloops Blazers, who are, like Kelowna, 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
But the Blazers could be in the same boat with some of their key players also sidelined—captain Matt Needham and Jake Kryski both left the previous game against Prince George with injuries and didn’t return.
Still, Ralph is taking nothing for granted heading to Kamloops.
“We’re up against a good hockey team,” he said. “We’re going to have to be at our best.”
In Kamloops, the Rockets will see former teammate Gage Quinney for the first time since the 20-year-old forward was dealt to the Blazers last month.
In 11 games with Kamloops, Quinney has been red hot with eight goals and 17 points.
“I’m sure we’ll get Gage Quinney’s best, so we need to play him hard, maybe harder than anyone else on their team,” said Ralph. “Our guys are all friends with Gage, but they can talk to him when the game is over.”
The Rockets are back on home ice Friday when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings for the only time this season. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.