This is becoming all too familiar. And not in the warm, inviting sense. This is more like the unwelcome visitor who keeps showing up at your door and refuses to go away.
The St. John’s IceCaps lost a game and more players to injury on Wednesday as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Hershey Bears in their first outing of a six-game American Hockey League road trip road trip.
“This is getting pretty tough. If this is not the most injuries (at one time) on a team I’ve been on, it’s getting pretty close,” said winger Jason King, who scored one of the goals for the IceCaps, who spotted the Bears a 3-0 lead halfway through the game and couldn’t come all the way back.
“We’re short as it is already, and it seems every game we’re losing one or two more bodies.”
Make that two on Wednesday.
Rookie winger Carl Klingberg was forced from the game in the opening period after taking a hit in the offensive zone. He attempted to come back in the second, but left again for the dressing room and did not return, Meanwhile, veteran defenceman Brett Festerling, playing for the first time after four-game absence because of an unspecified injury, left late in the final frame after a collision with Bears’ goaltender Dany Sabourin.
IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge was unsure of Festerling’s status immediately after the game and didn’t know if the injury he suffered Wednesday was related to the one that sidelined him recently. However, the coach said Klingberg’s injury doesn’t appear to be long-term.
“I would say it falls into the day-to-day category,” McCambridge said, before adding the team will still be looking to bring in another forward from the ECHL before Friday, when the IceCaps continue their road swing with a game in Syracuse.
That’s a contingency, because St. John’s entered Wednesday with only 12 healthy forwards — the norm for AHL games — and that dozen include Scott Zurevinski and Danny Dries, signed within the past week out of the college ranks, and Josh Lunden, brought in from the ECHL for the second time this season.
McCambridge said there were no immediate plans to bring in a defenceman as rookie Ben Chiarot, also promoted from the ECHL in the last few days, was a healthy scratch on Wednesday.
If Klingberg and Festerling are included, the number of players on IceCaps’ injury list sits at nine; forwards Eric O’Dell, Max Macenauer, Marco Rosa, Garth Murray and Brock Trotter and defencemen Paul Postma and Derek Meech are the others.
In addition, forwards Ben Maxwell and Spencer Machacek, the teams leading point-getter, are on recall to the parent Winnipeg Jets, who have their own injury issues.
On Wednesday, the Bears scored on their first shot of the game against Eddie Pasquale, making his ninth straight start in goal for St. John’s. Boyd Kane and Ryan Potulny had the other goals for Hershey (35-20-10).
Aaron Gagnon also scored for St. John’s (38-19-7), which has just three goals in a three-game losing streak after scoring a half-dozen in a 6-0 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs Mar. 14. In fact, King’s second-period goal, his team-leading 19th of the season, ended an IceCaps scoring drought that had reached nearly 120 minutes, just about the equivalent of two straight games.
St. John’s was not helped by a power-play that went zero-for-six — including several chances in the third period — and allowed a shorthanded tally on a first-period breakaway by Kane. However, both King and McCambridge agreed the power-play specifically, and team’s offence generally, are suffering because of the loss of so many regulars, including Postma, Machacek and Maxwell, mainstays in man-advantage situations.
“Earlier in the season, when we dipped into our depth, there wasn’t a big drop-off in talent and it didn’t hurt us as much, but the drop-off is more significant now,” said McCambridge.
“The guys we’ve brought in have performed well, but I think it would be fair to say that we are into our second layer of depth.”