Trask expects to be back
Injured forward expects to be back for P.A. series
By Cory Wolfe, The StarPhoenix
March 22, 2011
Saskatoon Blades sniper Jake Trask plans to be back riding shotgun with Brayden Schenn when the WHL playoffs begin this weekend.
Trask sat out the Blades' last two regularseason games after absorbing a blindside hit March 16, but he should be available Saturday.
"Everyone is really chomping to get going here," said Trask, whose team resumes practising today after two days off. "We accomplished a lot this season and everyone is excited to take that success into playoffs."
The league-leading Blades (56-13-1-2) meet the Prince Albert Raiders (31-36-2-3) in a best-of-seven series starting Saturday at Credit Union Centre. Saskatoon coach-GM Lorne Molleken reiterated Monday that everyone, including Trask, will be healthy enough for action. Defenceman Connor Cox and centre Ryan Olsen have also missed time lately due to upper-body ailments.
Trask's situation certainly could have been worse. Early in a March 16 game at CUC, Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brett Lyon skated through the slot and caught Trask with a blindside hit just as the latter released a shot.
Molleken described the impact as "a vicious blow to the head," and the WHL subsequently suspended Lyon. He sat out Moose Jaw's last two-regular season games and the final length of the suspension was still under review Monday.
"With all of the head-shot talk going around, even in the NHL, concussions are serious things," said Schenn, who centres Trask and Curtis Hamilton. "It's good that it wasn't too serious. Hopefully, he can be ready to go (Saturday)."
Trask scored a career-high 30 goals this season and 20 of those tallies came in the last 25 games. His linemates, Schenn and Hamilton, are first-round NHL picks, but Trask completes the chemistry of that line.
"He's a big piece of our team," said Schenn. "He plays the power play and he penalty kills once in a while, so any time you lose a top-nine forward -or any player on your team -it hurts you. It's going to be big for us to get him back."
With Trask's imminent return, the other forward lines revert to normal. Josh Nicholls goes back to the right side with Marek Viedensky and Darian Dziurzynski, while Matej Stransky rejoins Brent Benson and Chris Collins. The fourth unit feature Olsen, Lukas Sutter and Levi Bews. Alex Elliott could also see fourth-line duty.
The Blades head into the playoffs with a pretty full bandwagon. They've been a popular draw lately, with back-to-back crowds of 8,400-plus. Those numbers helped Saskatoon's average attendance surpass 5,000 for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
"It's exciting," said Trask, a homegrown Blade. "I remember coming when I was younger and there wasn't that many people and it was pretty quiet. It's exciting to see that many people backing our team. Going into playoffs, that's going to be a huge advantage for us if we can eight, nine or 10 thousand in here a night."
BLADE BITS: Blades G Steven Stanford gets the start against his old team Saturday. Saskatoon acquired Stanford from the Raiders in October 2009, in exchange for D Tyler Yaworski and D Brendon Wall. The teams also swapped draft picks, with Saskatoon getting Prince Albert's sixth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft and the Raiders getting the Blades' fourthrounder. This season, Stanford became just the fourth Blade goalie to win 40 regular-season games. His 40-5-0-0 record puts him in the company of Tim Cheveldae (44 wins, 1987-88), Norm Maracle (41 wins, 1993-94) and Braden Holtby (40 wins, 2008-09).
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