Monday, February 14, 2011

Daily News Sports Editor
Coaches will tell you that every team has to deal with them, that every team has to learn how to overcome the adversity that comes with the injury bug.
Well, injuries have become a major story in the WHL‘s 10-team Western Conference, as teams head into the last five weeks of the regular season.
As has been well documented in these parts, the Kamloops Blazers are without centre Chase Schaber (leg), who is their captain and perhaps their best all-around forward. They also are without defencemen Austin Madaisky (neck) and Brandon Underwood (knee), who had become their shutdown pairing, playing mostly against the other team’s top offensive unit.
Underwood won’t play again in this regular season, while Madaisky is done until next season. Schaber was day-to-day a few days ago but now there apparently are fears of calcification and his leg injury has him out indefinitely.
Schaber will miss his 14th straight game — and 16th of the last 18 — tonight as the Blazers meet the Tri-City Americans at Interior Savings Centre.
The injury bug has bitten Tri-City, too.
The Americans, who have beaten the Blazers in seven straight games, are without goaltender Drew Owsley (left knee), who was injured during a 7-2 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane on Saturday night. Owsley, a 19-year-old from Lethbridge, went down early in the second period when one of his defencemen shoved Spokane forward Kenton Miller into him. Owsley returned to Kennewick, Wash., and was to undergo further examination yesterday.
Owsley has been Tri-City’s go-to guy. He had appeared in 46 games, and was 30-14-2 with a 2.80 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
Backup Chris Driedger, a 16-year-old Winnipegger, is 3-1-0 in 12 appearances. He beat the Bruins 6-1 in Chilliwack on Sunday night in what was his fourth WHL start. Driedger was a fourth-round selection by Tri-City in the 2009 bantam draft.
The Americans have brought in Cam Gorchynski, an 18-year-old from Chilliwack, to help out. He came in from the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, although he started the season with the Westside Warriors. He was a fifth-round selection by the Red Deer Rebels in the 2007 bantam draft.
While Driedger is likely to start for the Americans, the Blazers are expected to go with Jeff Bosch for an 11th straight game. This will be his 29th start in their last 32 games.
The Blazers go into the game ninth in the 10-team Western Conference, which means, at least for now, they are on the outside looking in. The Chilliwack Bruins moved into eighth place over the weekend and lead the Blazers by a point.
The Bruins went 2-1-0 on the weekend, playing most of the time without three veteran defencemen. Brandon Manning is serving a seven-game suspension for a hit that left Madaisky with a fractured C-7 vertebrae. Zach Habscheid was injured during Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Rockets in Kelowna. Jeff Einhorn didn’t play in any of the weekend games.
Chilliwack also lost forward Tim Traber (broken leg) for the rest of the season. He was injured Friday on a play on which Kelowna forward Colton Jobke was hit with a major penalty for interference. He has since drawn a seven-game suspension.
After tonight, the Bruins will hold four games in hand on the Blazers. Chilliwack next plays on the weekend when it goes on the road to face Tri-City, the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds, in that order.
The Americans, meanwhile, continue to chase the Winterhawks and Spokane. Tri-City is third in the U.S. Division, a point behind Spokane and six in arrears of Portland. However, the Americans hold three games in hand on Spokane and four on Portland.
Strangely, the two teams that are chasing Portland have lost their starting goaltenders. While the Americans have lost Owsley, the Chiefs are without James Reid (hip) and have him listed as week-to-week.
Madaisky, Underwood and Traber are two of at least eight Western Conference players who won’t play again in this regular season.
The Winterhawks have lost defenceman Brett Ponich (knee) and winger Oliver Gabriel (shoulder), both of whom had season-ending surgery. The Vancouver Giants won’t see forwards Marek Tvrdon (shoulder) or Randy McNaught (ankle) again this season.
As well, centre Landon Ferraro, the Everett Silvertips’ captain, is recovering from hernia surgery and won’t return unless his teammates get deep into the playoffs.
JUST NOTES: Game time tonight is 7 o’clock. . . . This will be the American’s fourth game in five nights. They went 2-1-0 in the first three. . . . The Americans, who are 8-3-1 against the B.C. Division, are 2-0 against the Blazers, having posted 7-3 and 5-0 victories in Kennewick. The four-game season series will conclude here on March 8. . . . The Blazers are 2-11-1 against teams from the U.S. Division. . . . The Americans have the WHL’s No. 2 power play (72-for-301, 23.9 per cent), while the Blazers’ penalty killing is last (75-for-304, 75.3). . . . Tri-City also boasts one of the WHL’s top forward lines. LW Adam Hughesman has 77 points, including 38 goals. C Brendan Shinnimin has 73 points, 48 of them assists. LW Carter Ashton, acquired from the Regina Pats in December, has 22 points, including seven goals, in only 14 games with the Americans. . . . The Blazers leave Thursday on a five-game Central Division swing. . . . After tonight, the Blazers will have five home games remaining, all of them in March. . . . Kelowna is  at the ISC on March 2.
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