The Kamloops Blazers are going to be missing a few roster players when the WHL’s regular-season schedule picks up on Monday. In order to help fill the gaps, the Blazers are expected to bring in forward Matthew Needham, 15, from Penticton and defenceman Landon Cross, 16, from Brandon.
Defenceman Brandon Underwood was suspended by the WHL for one game on Tuesday so won’t be eligible to play when the Blazers meet the Giants in Vancouver on Monday. He was suspended for a kneeing major he incurred during a 3-2 loss to the Cougars in Prince George on Sunday. This is Underwood’s second one-game suspension of the season.
The Blazers, who are the WHL’s most-penalized team, now have been hit with 18 games in suspensions this season.
Right-winger Jordan DePape also will sit out Monday’s game as he completes a five-game suspension for a hit on forward Killian Hutt of the visiting Swift Current Broncos on Dec. 10.
Underwood and DePape will be eligible to return Tuesday when the Giants play at Interior Savings Centre. Game time will be 7 p.m.
Two other players -- forwards Dalibor Bortnak (Slovakia) and Bernhard Keil (Germany) -- hope to be playing at the World Junior Championship that opens Sunday in Buffalo. However, neither team has as of yet declared its final roster.
Also missing will be two players in their first WHL seasons. Defenceman Brady Gaudet, who is from Redvers, Sask., and forward Logan McVeigh, from Kenaston, Sask., both will be with Team West at the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg.
That tournament, for 1994-born players, begins Tuesday and runs through Jan. 4, which means Gaudet and McVeigh will miss at least six WHL games. Team West comprises players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
At the same time, the Blazers hope to welcome back defenceman Josh Caron, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken collarbone on Sept. 25. He was injured in the second game of the season, against the Chilliwack Bruins, and hasn’t played since, meaning he has missed 33 games.
Needham, who plays for the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, was the eighth overall selection in the WHL’s 2010 bantam draft. He has played two games with the Blazers the season and scored his first WHL goal in his second appearance. With OHA, Needham has 27 points, including 11 goals, and 45 penalty minutes in 26 games.
Cross was a third-round selection in the 2009 draft. He has 17 points and 52 penalty minutes in 28 games with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings.
Later in the season, the Blazers will have three of their 2010 bantam draft selections playing in the Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
Needham and defenceman Joshua Connolly of Prince George will play for Team B.C., while forward Cole Ully of Calgary will be with Team Alberta.
Connolly, who plays with the major midget Cariboo Cougars, was a third-round pick. Ully, a second-round selection, is with the midget AAA Calgary Flames.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers have returned F Aspen Sterzer, 16, to his team at the EDGE academy in Calgary. In two stints with the Blazers, he has played in seven games. . . . D Sena Acolatse of the Prince George Cougars has been suspended for two games for the match penalty for attempt to injury that he took at the end of Saturday’s victory over the Blazers.
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