By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Defenceman Austin Madaisky will be back with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers in time for Friday's regular-season home-opener.
Madaisky, who has been in camp with the NHL's Columbus Blue jackets, is scheduled to fly out of the Ohio city this morning.
The Blazers swing into the regular season with home dates against the Prince George Cougars on Friday and the Chilliwack Bruins on Saturday.
Madaisky, a fifth-round pick by the Blue Jackets in the NHL's 2010 draft, was one of eight defencemen shown on the lineup the Blue Jackets issued prior to Wednesday night's exhibition game against the visiting Washington Capitals, who posted a 6-2 victory.
However, Madaisky didn't play. His instructions were to prepare as though this was a game day and he was going to play, which meant taking the pregame warmup and then taking off his gear.
“I kind of came into this not really expecting to play any exhibition games,” said Madaisky, 18, who has yet to sign an NHL contract. “It's rare for any 18-year-olds to get in, especially with how many defenceman Columbus has at this camp. But even to get listed as a spare . . . I'll take it as a compliment.
“I dressed for warm-ups . . . it was pretty cool.”
It's been a that kind of month for Madaisky.
He played for the Blue Jackets at a prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and then headed for Columbus and main camp.
“It's been great,” he said, “and I think I've done really well here so far.”
The Blue Jackets don't have any 1991-born defencemen on their roster, while there were only two 1992s - Madaisky and his roommate, Ian Archibald, a 2010 draft pick from the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Archibald was listed on last night's game sheet but, like Madaisky, didn't play.)
All told, they had 21 defencemen in camp and Madaisky feels he at least held his own.
“I think I've done fairly well,” he said. “The pace is obviously (quicker) . . . but the more practices and game-like scenarios that go by the easier it gets.
“In Traverse City, Game 1 was a little fast. Game 2 was better. By the time Game 3 came along, I thought I was holding my own out there. . . .
“It wasn't too much of a jump in terms of Traverse to main camp. Everybody's going hard in Traverse. Here, it's a pretty similar speed but the execution is much better. You don't see guys miss many passes; every shot is a good shot. It's a good learning experience.”
Madaisky, like so many other young players before him, also made an important discovery.
“Everybody around you is better, which makes you a better player,” he said. “As long as you come in and you've done the work in the summer . . . once you start practising with the big guys it almost gets easier. Every pass is good. Everything is quick . . . bam, bam, bam. It's great.
“As long as you're in shape, you're going to do fine.”
A year ago, Madaisky was preparing for his sophomore season with the Calgary Hitmen knowing that he would have a tough time cracking their top four. Then, in January, he was traded to the Blazers, with whom he got lots of ice time.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“Absolutely, the trade was great for me,” he said. “It really gave me an opportunity.”
JUST NOTES: The games on Friday and Saturday both start at 7 p.m. . . . The Blazers did get F Brendan Ranford back from the camp of the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. He was a seventh-round pick by the Flyers in the 2010 NHL draft. . . . D Josh Caron (Minnesota Wild) is to rejoin the Blazers sometime today. . . . That leaves D Corey Fienhage (Buffalo Sabres) as the lone player still with an NHL team. . . . D Brandon Underwood (concussion) isn't expected to play this weekend. He was injured Saturday when he took a hit from Prince George F Charles Inglis. Underwood had his first symptom-free day yesterday, so will be cleared in a week. . . . G Jeff Bosch, acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday, practised yesterday. He has been bothered by a sprained ankle for a couple of weeks.
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