It was a blast of expected good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, with Sidney Crosby announcing he’s healthy enough to play, and will do so Thursday, after a year of concussion-like symptoms.
Turns out the Kelowna Rockets also had good news on Tuesday concerning two of their leaders who have been out of action due to concussions. The team announced that captain Colton Sissons will return to the ice on Friday night, while veteran forward Spencer Main appears to be on the cusp of rejoining the squad.
“Sissons will play (in Vancouver),” said Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, whose team ends its regular-season schedule with a home-and-home series against the Giants. “He’s cleared to play; he had his first day of contact (Tuesday), so he’ll be ready to go for the weekend. And Spencer is going to see a doctor this week to see where he’s at. He’s now put in two solid days of practice without contact and has, from all reports, felt fine. So we’re excited about the news.”
Main, a 19-year-old veteran centre, has been out for most of 2011-12 with a concussion, playing in just 12 games before getting hurt in a 5-2 loss on Oct. 23 in Vancouver. Sissons has been out for a month, suffering his injury in a 3-2 home-ice loss to Kamloops on Feb. 11.
While Tuesday’s news was certainly uplifting for Kelowna (29-31-3-6), Sissons and Main still won’t be available for tonight’s home game against the Everett Silvertips (21-38-2-8). Too bad, because the Rockets — after last weekend’s embarrassing efforts, a pair of 3-1 home-ice losses to Victoria and Prince George — could certainly use those two leaders in the lineup.
Heading into the weekend, the Rockets weren’t a truly healthy bunch, with flu-like symptoms smothering the team after last Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout victory in Spokane. By Friday, it appeared the team had recovered — though their flat effort against Victoria said otherwise.
The players were flatter than Manitoba and, afterwards, coach Ryan Huska was asked if sickness had played a part in the 3-1 loss. His answer: A quick, emphatic no.
He was right. For if you’re healthy enough to play, you’re healthy enough to compete. And that flat, lack of effort, not the end result, was what was most bothersome.
The scenario may repeated again tonight, as Kelowna again will be playing a playoff-bubble team.
As of this morning, Everett is seventh in the Western Conference with 52, points, one better than eighth-place Victoria (51 pts.) and two better than the ninth-place Seattle Thunderbirds (50 pts). Seattle, however, has played 69 games, the same as Everett (69), but less than Victoria (70), so the Thunderbirds are in the mix for the last two playoff berths.
Last-and-10th-place Prince George (23-45-0-2; 48) is still alive, though at three points out of eighth with just two games left (70), the Cougars’ season is all but over.
A win by Everett tonight should clinch the Tips a post-season spot, so count on the Tips playing desperate — much like Victoria and Prince George did on the weekend.
In related news, the WHL released its preliminary playoff schedule this week, and the Rockets, who are stuck in sixth, will play the No. 3 seed, that being either Portland or Tri-City. In either case, the Rockets will play Games 1 and 2 on the road March 23 and 24. If it’s Portland, then the Winterhawks will play out of Memorial Coliseum, and not the Rose Garden.
ICE CHIPS: D Mitchell Chapman (upper-body injury suffered in Spokane) will likely miss Kelowna’s final three regular-season games, then be ready to go for the playoffs. . . . The Rockets are 2-1 against the Tips this season, including a 3-2 loss at Prospera Place in their most recent meeting, on Jan. 15. . . . Both teams are 5-4-1-0 in their past 10 games. Kelowna is on a two-game losing streak, while Everett is 1-0-1-0 in its past two games, including a 3-0 win over Victoria on Sunday. . . . The Rockets are 14-18-0-2 at home, while the Silvertips are 7-20-2-4 on the road. . . . The Rockets are 12-4-1-3 and 18-2-1-3 when respectively leading after the first and second periods. The Silvertips are 11-5-1-2 and 15-2-0-3. Conversely, Kelowna is 8-15-0-1 and 3-24-0-1 when trailing after the first and second, while Everett is 4-24-0-2 and 4-32-1-3.