By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
It could be that the worst part of being injured is the boredom.
Just ask defenceman Brandon Underwood of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, who might return to action tonight against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes after being out four weeks with a knee injury.
"Oh yeah . . . yeah," Underwood replied when it was suggested that he must have been plenty bored earlier this week.
He and three teammates - Cam Lanigan, J.C. Lipon and J.T. Barnett - went to see Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, the movie starring the teen heart-throb from Stratford, Ont.
"I saw the first preview and said I was never going to see it," said a laughing Underwood, "but . . . a couple of guys said it was good and, actually, it's a pretty good story."
"I definitely don't have the Bieber Fever but I appreciate the guy's musical talents," Underwood said. "There were a couple of screaming girls, some dancing in the aisles. I just stayed in my seat."
Underwood has been pretty much in his seat since Feb. 4, when he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The original prognosis was four to six weeks, so it would appear that he is a bit ahead of schedule.
After being injured, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Underwood, an 18-year-old from Carlsbad, Calif., took about 10 days off. After that, though, he did rehabilitation work every day. That involved riding a stationary bike and a lot of calisthenics.
"Working on the knee," he explained. "Releasing the muscles in the knee."
During his time off, the knee, which was immobilized for a while, stiffened up, so Underwood had to work at "loosening it up and getting the strength back."
Underwood didn't accompany the Blazers on their recent Central Division swing and began light skating while they were away. There was, he said, "a little bit of pain."
By this week, that pain was gone. He returned to practice on Monday, wearing a non-contact jersey, and, along with captain Chase Schaber, took part in a full practice on Tuesday.
"Right now, my knee is good," Underwood said. "It's more about getting my game legs back and getting back in shape."
At the same time, he acknowledged, there isn't any sense in rushing back, not with the Blazers appearing well on their way to clinching a playoff spot.
"I'm hoping to play (tonight) but . . . they don't want to throw me into the fire if they don't think I'm ready," he said. "It's more about being ready for the playoffs. The last couple games will be tuneup games for me to get ready for the playoffs."
In the meantime, perhaps he could work on adding some Bieber tunes to the Blazers' dressing room play list.
After all, those who were outside the New York Islanders' room say they heard the theme from Never Say Never being played following a 4-1 NHL victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
The Blazers (29-32-4) go into tonight's game tied with the Prince George Cougars (29-31-4) for seventh place in the 10-team Western Conference. They are three points ahead of the Chilliwack Bruins (27-30-5).
The Cougars are at home to the Spokane Chiefs tonight and Saturday.
For the fourth straight weekend, the Bruins will play a three-in-three. They are in Kelowna tonight, at home to the Blazers on Saturday and entertain the Portland Winterhawks on Sunday.
JUST NOTES: Game time at Interior Savings Centre is 7 p.m. . . . Schaber, who has missed 22 of the last 24 games, also took part in a full workout Tuesday. He took the warmup prior to Wednesday's 6-2 loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets and might play tonight. . . . The Blazers remain without D Austin Madaisky (neck) and F Chase Souto (concussion). Souto is to be re-evaluated early next week. . . . The Hurricanes, who lost 3-1 to the host Chilliwack Bruins on Wednesday, are in B.C. for three games. They'll also play in Kelowna on Saturday before heading home. . . . Lethbridge is ninth in the 12-team Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth-place Prince Albert Raiders.