The St. John’s IceCaps’ travelling troupe is shrinking. And shrinking fast.
When the 2011-12 American Hockey League season began eight weeks ago, the IceCaps headed onto the road for a two-game swing featuring a roster with a half-dozen extra bodies. Today, the Caps leave for another two-game tour with 22 players — three goalies and 19 skaters, just one over the normal minimum requirements. And four of those skaters — defencemen Jake Marto and Kyle Bushee, along with forwards Kenndal McArdle and Aaron Gagnon — weren’t even on the roster during that season-starting trip.
That’s how much and how quickly things can change in the minors
Injuries have contributed to the situation. Riley Holzapfel suffered a broken orbital bone when hit in the face by a puck in practice Tuesday, putting him on the sideline along with Jason Gregoire.
But all-ups by the parent Winnipeg Jets have been the chief roster reducer.
Rookie winger Carl Klingberg is the latest to be promoted to Winnipeg from St. John’s. Klingberg, who has nine goals and seven assists in 16 games for St. John’s, was required as insurance because of the doubtful status of Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr.
Antropov and Fehr were both absent from the Jets’ Wednesday practice and have been listed as day-to-day with unspecified injuries.
That means Klingberg could be in the lineup tonight when the Jets host the Phoenix Coyotes. However, if he does play, it will not be the NHL debut for the six-foot-three Swede as he appeared in one game for the Atlanta Thrashers last season.
Klingberg is the seventh IceCap to receive a call from the parent club in the last five weeks and will be the fifth still in Winnipeg, joining Jason Jaffray, Arturs Kulda, Mark Flood and Brett Festerling.
Goaltender Peter Mannino, the first IceCap to get called up (that was on Oct. 29), and defenceman Paul Postma, who played three games for Winnipeg, have been returned to St. John’s.
Holzapfel’s injury and Klingberg’s recall have created big opportunities for rookies Eric O’Dell and Shayne Wiebe, who have been healthy scratches of late.
Wiebe, in particular, is getting a big promotion, as he will take Holzapfel’s place on what nominally has been the IceCaps’ No. 1 line with veterans Spencer Machacek and Marco Rosa.
O’Dell will replace Klingberg on a line centred by Patrice Cormier.
The IceCaps (12-4-4, first in the AHL’s Atlantic Division) leave today for Southern Ontario, where they will play the Hamilton Bulldogs Friday night and Toronto Marlies Sunday afternoon.
O’Dell and Wiebe are the last spare forwards, but as of Wednesday night, there had been no firm decision on bringing in a player from the ECHL.
“We’ve talked about it, discussed different scenarios, but as of now, there is nobody on a flight, coming to joinus,” said IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge Wednesday night.
The Jets/IceCaps have two contracted forwards — Tommy Maxwell and Mike Forney — with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles.