Returning Dziurzynski in big battle for ice time
By Daniel Nugent-bowman, The StarPhoenix
October 8, 2011
Although Darian Dziurzynski had his sights set on sticking with the Phoenix Coyotes' organization this season, he still couldn't help but keep an eye on things in Saskatoon with the Blades.
"I've been following them on the Internet and we're supposed to have a real strong team," he said at Friday's practice, a day after being reassigned by the Coyote's farm team - the Portland Pirates. "(Jesse) Paradis is having a good start to the year. It's good to see we're bringing in guys like that who've stepped up and really performed."
The only problem is now the long-time Blades leftwinger will have to fight off those performing veterans for ice time.
Dziurzynski's return means the WHL team now has four 20-year-old players on its roster. While the Blades have a two-week period before they must move one of them, they can only dress three per game.
Blades general manager and head coach Lorne Molleken said the four overagers - Dziurzynski, Paradis, Jake Trask and the newly-acquired Michael Burns - will rotate out of the lineup, starting Saturday night against the Edmonton Oil Kings at Credit Union Centre.
Trask - the Blades' leading scorer with seven points - missed practice Friday after he "tweaked himself" during an on-ice workout the day before and will likely be the first veteran to sit out.
"Eventually we'll have to trade one of them but the three that we have, leading up to Dziurzynski coming back, have all played extremely well and they've played big parts in our success," said Molleken. "Now with Darian coming back, we know that he's one of the best two-way forwards in our league. He's a huge asset for our hockey club and a big part of our team and has been for the last couple of years.
"As we move forward, it's going to be a difficult process without question."
Paradis is the team's second-leading point-getter with six, while Burns recorded an assist in a 4-1 victory on the Prince George Cougars - a day after being obtained from the Vancouver Giants.
"I'm just trying to play my game," said Burns. "They wanted me here for a reason obviously. So I'll keep doing what I'm doing."
Molleken said he plans on taking advantage of the entire 14-day window - which he is afforded because Dziurzynski was returned from the pro ranks.
The Blades are also supposed to know next Wednesday if their 2013 Memorial Cup bid is successful. But whether or not Saskatoon is hosting the tournament, Molleken knows he has to starting focusing on next season.
Therefore he could opt to trade the player who could net the Blades their best return.
"At some point we'll either be looking to improve our hockey club for the '13 season or we'll be looking to rebuild what we gave up for Brayden Schenn," said Molleken. "The thing is with junior hockey, when you give up a number of assets at some point it's going to bite you in the ***."
The Blades acquired Schenn in exchange for four draft picks and two then-15-year-old prospects, forward Tim McGauley and defenceman Ayrton Nikkel, last January in an attempt to load up for the WHL playoffs.
No matter what happens from a personnel standpoint over the next couple of weeks, the oldest/newest Blade doesn't intend to do anything differently from the 2010-11 season, where he chipped in with 35 goals and 57 points with 125 penalty minutes in 72 games.
"I'm not going to change anything from my game last year," said Dziurzynski. "I'm going to do everything that made me the player that I am."
BLADE BITS: Centre Brent Benson skated before practice but will likely miss one more game with a lower-body injury. Look for Alex Elliott to receive more ice time in his absence ... Tommy Stipancik is now medically cleared to play after sustaining an arm injury against Prince Albert on Sept. 24. His return, coupled with the acquisition of Zach Hodder from Vancouver, give the Blades eight healthy blue-liners ... The game against the Oil Kings is First Nations Night at Credit Union Centre. Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas will be involved in the opening ceremonies and there will be also live entertainment throughout the game.
dnugent-bowman @thestarphoenix.com Twitter.com/DNBsports
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix