On the heels of snapping a seven-game losing skid, the Kootenay Ice look to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season when the Edmonton Oil Kings visit Western Financial Place Friday night at 7 p.m.
“We know what we have to do tomorrow,” said forward Luke Philp prior to practice Thursday afternoon. “We’re ready to play. We’ve got to get on a bit of a roll here. It’s hard when you’re winning one, losing one, or losing a bunch in a row.”
The Ice will be boosted by the return of Sam Reinhart, who joined the team for the first time this season prior to practice Wednesday afternoon. The 19-year-old native of North Vancouver started the season with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. After registering one assist in nine games, the second-overall selection from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft was returned to the Ice.
“You see guys’ moods start to lift a bit when you get a player like that back,” Philp said.
“It helps confidence-wise. It was good to get that last win against Lethbridge, but before that, confidence maybe wasn’t all there. [Reinhart’s return] definitely helps with that a lot.”
The Ice are coming off an uplifting 6-5 overtime victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes last Saturday, in which forward Jaedon Descheneau scored an electrifying tally to win the game in extra time.
As for the Oil Kings, they enter Friday’s contest having been on the road since Oct. 29. If you include the road trip-opening 4-3 overtime loss to the Spokane Chiefs, Edmonton has lost all five outings to this point on its seven-game swing. The Oil Kings wrap up the lengthy stretch on the road Saturday night when they visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“We know what that team’s about, they’re a really good team,” Philp said. “They show up to play every night and nothing is going to be easy. We’ve got to be ready for a battle.”
While the Ice get a boost from Reinhart as well as the expected return of Tim Bozon who has put his lower-body injury issues to rest, a key cog on the blue line will be missing.
Defenceman Tanner Faith was sidelined after getting tangled up with Rebels defenceman Devan Fafard in Kootenay’s 7-3 loss to Red Deer last Friday. He is expected to be out for four weeks with an upper-body injury.
“He’s a big body, really strong and physical,” Philp said of Faith. “He plays that physical game and not many guys want to deal with him. It’s a tough loss for us [not having him].”
Not only are the Ice without the services of Faith on the backend, defenceman Tyler King remains out for another week due to a lower-body injury. Forward Jon Martin also remains on the shelf with an upper-body injury.
After Friday’s engagement with the Oil Kings, the Ice host the Swift Current Broncos (10-8-0-2) Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Should forward Austin Vetterl dress in both games this weekend, Saturday night will mark the 150th game of his Kootenay Ice career. The 20-year-old Surrey native has played in 219 games in his WHL career. After playing 71 games with the Vancouver Giants, Vetterl was dealt to the Ice Nov. 1, 2012.