It’s been a good news/bad news kind of week for St. John’s IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge. First, the good news: injured forwards Brock Trotter, Marco Rosa, Ray Sawada and defenceman Paul Postma have all been practising this week without red shirts, meaning they’ve been taking contact, meaning they’re ready to play this weekend as the IceCaps close out their American Hockey League regular-season schedule on the road.
And now the bad news: team captain Jason Jaffray is lost to the IceCaps for the remainder of the season.
Jaffray, the IceCaps' fifth-leading scorer with 17 goals and 38 points through 47 games, is scheduled to undergo surgery for a spinal fusion next Thursday. Recovery time for Jaffray, who turns 31 the end of June, is expected to be upwards of six months.
He was injured during a game in Norfolk, Va., March 30. Jaffray was looked at by doctors in Norfolk and Winnipeg, and was sent to Los Angeles, where he was checked over by the same doctor who operated on NFL star Peyton Manning in September, who confirmed surgery was required.
“He’s our captain so obviously it’s a big loss,” said McCambridge. “He’s a leader, contributes offensively, is a solid two-way player.
“So guys need to step up. When Trotter is 100 per cent, he will pick up some slack. Same with Rosa. These guys bring a lot of experience. It’s a very big void to fill, but it helps when you have upper echelon players you can add to the lineup.”
Trotter came to the IceCaps in early March from the Portland Pirates in a minor league deal which saw Kenndal McArdle and Peter Mannino go the other way. But the 25-year-old Brandon, Man., native has yet to appear in a St. John’s jersey because of an undisclosed injury.
In 35 games with the Pirates this season, Trotter collected 31 points. He started the season with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, picking up two goals and seven points.
Trotter is a proven playoff performer, recording 19 points in 19 games as the Bulldogs reached the Western Conference final in 2009-10.
Rosa hasn’t played since Dec. 18 after sustaining a concussion. At the time of his injury, he was leading the IceCaps with 27 points in 29 games. In last year’s Calder Cup playoffs, Rosa had 17 points in 14 games for the Manitoba Moose.
Rosa and Trotter were skating with Spencer Machacek in practice Wednesday, while Sawada, who adds size to the IceCaps’ lineup, was on a line with John Albert and Garth Murray.
Other line combinations featured Ben Maxwell, Aaron Gagnon and Jason King and Carl Klingberg, Patrice Cormier and Kevin Clark.
Rookies Eric O’Dell, coming off a five-goal weekend, Jason Gregoire, Danny Dries and Zach O’Brien rotated on the extra line. O’Brien, from St. John’s, won’t travel with the IceCaps this weekend when they wrap up in Worcester, Mass., Springfield, Mass, and Manchester, N.H.
Postma, who’s missed 10 games with a leg injury, practiced this week without a red jersey. The blueliner, voted the team’s MVP and top defenceman, should be back in the lineup this weekend, joining Derek Meech and Jason DeSantis. who both returned last Sunday against the Springfield Falcons.
Only forward Maxime Macenauer and defenceman John Negrin have not yet been cleared for contact.
“Guys are slowly coming back,” said McCambridge, who still isn’t certain if Trotter, Rosa, Sawada and Postma will play all three games, or instead will be eased into the lineup.
“We ran out of red shirts last week. Seriously.
“We’d like to get guys in there, get them as familiar as they can with each other.”
The playoffs are slated to open next week, with the IceCaps scheduled to begin play Friday on the road against an opponent still not yet determined.