© — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
St. John’s IceCaps defenceman chips the puck into the Wilkes-Barren Scranton Penguins’ zone while teammate Patrice Cormier battles the Penguins’ Tom Kuhnjackl along the boards during the teams’ American Hockey League game Friday night at Mile One Centre. It was Redmond’s fifth game of the season with St. John’s, having missed games due to injury and a stint with the parent Winnipeg Jets. Redmond recorded a second period-marker in the IceCaps’ 3-0 win.
With nagging injuries behind him, rearguard hopeful he can start to log more minutes
Talk about the IceCaps defence, and the name most often mentioned is Zach Redmond. Problem is, Redmond hasn’t played much on the St. John’s blueline of late. Nor the Winnipeg Jets’ defence.
Thing is, Redmond hasn’t played a lot ... anywhere.
And that’s something the 25-year-old Michigan native hopes to change as the IceCaps skate into their Christmas break and a busy second half of the AHL schedule.
“I haven’t had a year like this in my career,” Redmond was saying this week, as the IceCaps prepared for this weekend’s series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. “You come into camp after a good summer of training, you’re in shape, ready to go, and then you have a setback. You get back on the ice, and you have another setback.
“It’s been a tough year. But I’m getting back into a swing of things, playing games and practising. And it feels great.”
Last night’s game marked the first time Redmond has played at Mile One this season, and only his sixth game this season, outside three with the parent Jets last month.
In fact, outside Redmond’s 2011-12 rookie season — when he represented the IceCaps at the AHL’s All-Star Classic — he’s played only 55 games over two years. And that’s counting last night’s start.
Last year, of course, was a wash, and the timing could not have been lousier. After a strong start in St. John’s, erasing any hint of a sophomore jinx, Redmond got his shot in Winnipeg and was fitting into the Jets’ lineup quite nicely until the well-documented, near-tragic injury occurred in Raleigh, N.C. in February when the right femoral artery and vein in his leg was lacerated.
Surgery to repair the damage took nearly three hours, and he was done for the rest of the year.
Then, after being reassigned to St. John’s in the fall to work his way back to his former self, Redmond suffered a leg injury which kept him out of the IceCaps’ lineup for the first 10 games of the new AHL season.
After making two starts for the IceCaps in Portland, Me., and Worcester, Mass., Redmond was recalled to Winnipeg but then sat for six games in the Jets’ press box.
He got into three games for the Jets, but was reassigned again to St. John’s Nov. 22, playing the next night in Wilkes-Barre. But then, wouldn’t you know it, Redmond was sidelined with a nagging injury for two games before closing out the IceCaps’ most recent road swing with starts in Syracuse and Binghamton, where he earned an assist in each game.
“I think it’s always important to play and get games under your belt,” Redmond said when asked how critical it is to play, and play a lot in the second half. “You’ve got to remember, in today’s game, it’s tough for anybody to get a complete, full season in.
“That said, I’m hopeful of a clean slate now, especially after last season and the tough start this year.”
In terms of the few games he’s appeared in this season, IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge said Redmond has not shown any ill effects from last year’s injury, or the nagging ailments that sidelined him this season.
“I like where he’s at right now, I like his practice habits,” McCambridge said. “I’m not concerned about Zach Redmond. His game will get back to where it needs to be, and you’re seeing spurts of that now.”
Redmond, however, wants to see more than spurts when it comes to ice time. After months and months of inactivity, he’s ready to play, and play a lot ... like Dustin Byfuglien-type numbers (the Jets defenceman averages 26.39 minutes of ice each night, third-most in the NHL).
“It’s easier to get into the flow of a game and feel more confident when you’re playing a lot,” he said. “I’ve always been that way. The more I play, the better I am, and the better I get.
“Now I’m looking forward to getting back to that point, and having things go my way the rest of the year.”
And hopefully, for his sake, his career.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort