By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
With 15 players away at NHL camps, the Portland Winterhawks were the first WHL team forced to cancel an exhibition game when they announced Monday that they wouldn’t be able to ice a team against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday.
The Kamloops Blazers, with eight skaters away and four others injured, have followed suit, cancelling tonight’s scheduled home game with the Prince George Cougars.
The Blazers (1-2-1) and Cougars (1-2-1) are supposed to complete their exhibition schedules in Prince George on Friday. The Cougars issued a news release Tuesday afternoon stating that their “final preseason home game on Friday . . . versus the Blazers will take place as scheduled.”
The Cougars have three players away at NHL camps and Dean Clark, the club’s head coach, said yesterday they are able to dress a full roster.
Kamloops players may begin to trickle back from pro camps on Friday, but it’s not known if any might get to Prince George in time to play. The four injured players all would have had to sit out tonight.
On Saturday night, the Blazers dressed 15 skaters — three under the maximum — for a game in Kelowna against the Rockets. But that included wingers J.T. Barnett, who left Tuesday for the New Jersey Devils’ camp, and Ryan Hanes, who departed the game in the first period with a charleyhorse. The loss of Hanes necessitated the coaching staff using two defencemen as forwards just to give them three lines.
The Blazers said yesterday that winger Chase Souto also is injured. He apparently has been experiencing headaches and is being held out as a precaution. Souto, a 17-year-old sophomore from Yorba Linda, Calif., suffered two concussions last season. He was involved in a fight with forward Tyrell Goulbourne of the Rockets early in the third period on Saturday night.
Earlier Tuesday, before the decision to cancel tonight’s game was announced, the Blazers said they would recall defenceman Jordan Thomson, 15, and dress him in their last two games. Thomson, who will play for the midget AAA Southwest Cougars, who play out of Souris, Man., picked up one assist in his one exhibition appearance before returning home.
The Blazers also have signed defenceman Ryan Rehill, 16, and have recalled him to help out. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Rehill, who is from Edmonton, was a sixth-round selection in the 2010 bantam draft.
Last season, with the Edmonton-Maple Leaf Athletic Club midget AAA team, Rehill had seven points and 50 penalty minutes in 29 games.
Even with the cancellation of tonight’s game, Rehill and Thomson will join the Blazers, skate with them and play on Friday.
JUST NOTES: The Cougars are without F Brett Connolly (Tampa Bay Lightning), D Martin Marincin (Edmonton) and F Charles Inglis (San Jose). . . . The Blazers away at pro camps are D Josh Caron and F Dylan Willick (Minnesota Wild), D Austin Madaisky (Columbus Blue Jackets), F Chase Schaber and F Colin Smith (Edmonton Oilers), F Brendan Ranford (Philadelphia Flyers), F Jordan DePape (Winnipeg Jets) and Barnett. . . . Caron, the only one of the bunch with an NHL contract, is eligible to play anywhere in the Wild’s system but is expected to be returned to the Blazers. . . . DePape, who has been bothered by a hip flexor problem since early in Blazers’ camp, didn’t dress for Winnipeg’s rookie tournament game against the Calgary Flames in Penticton on Monday night but was in the lineup last night against the Oilers. He didn’t score but got into a second-period fight with F Brett Ferguson, 21, who played the last three seasons for the Red Deer Rebels. . . . Schaber scored the game’s first goal as the Oilers beat the Jets, 2-0 . . . The Penticton tournament wraps up Thursday afternoon. . . . Willick, playing for the Wild in a tournament in Traverse City, Mich., drew an assist in a 3-1 loss to Columbus. Willick drove to the net off the wing, got off a shot and F Joey Martin put in the rebound. . . The Traverse City event ends tonight (Wednesday). . . . The Blazers are scheduled to open the regular season at Interior Savings Centre on Sept. 24, against those same Cougars.
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