Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
The Brockville Braves locked up the No. 3 spot in the standings after beating the Pembroke Lumber Kings 4-2 in a rare Monday night home game.
With two inconsequential games left in the regular season and less than a week before playoffs start the Braves coaching staff will now have to decide how to best manage their roster to be in tip-top shape for when the games do matter because right now they have a pretty serious case of the injury bug.
Captain Andrew Jarvis took a hard hit in Sunday’s matchup and watched Monday’s game from the stands, but is supposed to be back for playoffs.
Defenceman Simon Mack, named to the CCHL’s All-Rookie team, has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since mid-February and the jury is still out if he’ll be ready for playoffs, said head coach Jesse Winchester.
Forward Joshua Spratt is nursing a nagging injury that has put him in and out of the lineup recently, missing two of Brockville’s last four games.
Veteran Tyson Kirkby exited Monday’s game in the first period and didn’t return. Winchester was mum on the extent of his ailment.
Those are all players that are staples in the Braves lineup and individually are going to be missed.
Jarvis provides leadership and toughness on the blue line. Mack was getting into some serious fine form before his injury and was playing more like a veteran. Spratt is a spark plug for his team. Kirkby is another leader and a dynamo on the draw.
Collectively, when you group all the injuries together, losing them as a whole is much greater, even if Brockville did pull out a victory over Pembroke on Monday without them.
The Braves will be hosting the Lumber Kings again Wednesday at 8 p.m. Pembroke has already secured a spot in the playoffs, but are now fighting for position in the standings and every game still means something to them as they’re fighting for either No. 6 or No. 7 – the difference being whether they’ll play second-place Ottawa Jr. Senators in the first round or the Braves. That makes the Lumber Kings a dangerous team and should have fans holding their breath Wednesday in hopes another injury like Kirkby doesn’t happen again, especially after a fairly chippy game Monday.
Winchester said he knows the most important games are on the horizon and battling some of the team’s injury woes might rest on the coaching staff. To remedy their current situation, Winchester said he might have to look at managing the ice time differently and didn’t out-right say he would rest players, but added, “We got some guys that are banged up, so we don’t necessarily have to rush them.”
One thing Winchester is not going to do is tell his team to take their foot off the gas pedal. The depth charts might be a little different for Brockville in the next two games, but nothing changes in Winchester’s mind when his players are on the ice as he expects them to, “play high-paced, hard, relentless in pursuit and it doesn’t matter who we insert in the lineup we’re getting solid efforts from everybody.”
The idea of telling his team to ease up before playoffs and then possibly have them not return to prime fighting form – they’ve gone 13-3-0-1 since the start of February – might be riskier than any injury.
“I think if you tell someone to take it easy that’s when injuries are going to happen. They’re programmed to play hard. If they’re in the lineup then (assistant coach Devin Payne) and I expect them to play hard,” said Winchester, named CCHL coach of the year earlier this week. “We have great kids who want to compete and we don’t want to take that away from them.”
Original Story at Recorder.ca