Injury-free has been an unfamiliar concept for the 2011-12 edition of the Kelowna Rockets.
But, if all goes as planned this week, the Western Hockey League club could be close to 100 per cent healthy just in time for the playoffs.
The Rockets, who lost nearly 400 man-games due to injury this season, are hoping all four players currently sidelined will be back for the start of their opening-round series Friday against the Portland Winterhawks.
From the season’s opening whistle, Kelowna has had at least one player—and usually several more—on the shelf with injuries.
Defencemen Mitchell Chapman (upper body), Myles Bell (leg), and Madison Bowey (shoulder), and centre Spencer Main (concussion) are all working towards a return this weekend for Games 1 and 2.
Main, 19, a leader for the Rockets on and off the ice, has missed 60 games with concussion-like symptoms.
“He’s going to see a specialist this week and that’ll probably spell the story for him,” Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton said of Main’s possible return. “If he gets clearance to go then I think that’ll be real exciting for him.
“If he doesn’t get back in within the first four games, I don’t think we’ll see him.”
For Main’s part the layoff has been frustrating, but the fact that he’s been able to skate with his teammates for the last couple of weeks has given the North Vancouver native a renewed sense of hope.
“It’s been a pretty tough few months, but I’ve had great support through all of this,” said Main. “That’s been important to me.
“Even just getting to skate with the guys the last few weeks has made everything worthwhile,” added Main, who had five goals and nine points in 12 games before being injured Oct. 23. “Of course I hope I can come back and play, but even if I don’t get the go ahead, I’m happy I’ve been able to be out there again.”
If the Rockets are fortunate enough to get all four players back for the start of the post-season, head coach Ryan Huska said it will give the club several different hands to play as they prepare to battle the Winterhawks, the WHL’s highest-scoring team.
“It’s been a tough year for injuries, but if we can get everybody back for the playoffs there’s no better time,” Huska said. “If you have everybody at your disposal, you can make good decisions about who’s going to play each night. You can put your best team out there.”
Games 1 and 2 go Friday and Saturday in Portland, with Games 3 and 4 in Kelowna Tuesday, March 27 and Thursday, March 29.