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Vancouver Province article (Hay seeks players to fill injury gaps)

March 15 2012 at 6:50 AM
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Hay seeks players to fill injury gaps

Coach wants others to 'step up' as Musil, Burns ruled out for season

By Steve Ewen, The Province

March 15, 2012 3:02 AM

Vancouver defenceman David Musil has been ruled out for the rest of this season with a wrist injury, leaving a big hole for the Giants to fill, as he was a mainstay in the PK unit.

Photograph by: Stuart Davis - PNG Files , The Province

Bad News outlasted longtime arch nemesis Good News 2-1 on Wednesday at the Vancouver Giants' Ladner home base.

Word that overage forward Austin Fyten (knee surgery) had been cleared for contact by his surgeon and should be ready for the upcoming playoff series with the Spokane Chiefs was certainly tempered by announcements that defenceman David Musil (wrist surgery) and winger Nathan Burns (knee) were finished for the campaign.

Vancouver, which wraps up league play this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Kelowna Rockets, had recently lost forwards Anthony Ast (ankle sprain) and Austin Vetterl (leg surgery) for the year as well.

The series against Spokane opens March 23, with home-ice advantage still to be determined.

"This an opportunity for other players to step up," said Giants coach Don Hay. "They want that opportunity. Let's see if they can live up to it."

Musil's absence is the largest hole, considering he regularly played well over 20 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-4, 203-pound Edmonton Oilers prospect was frequently matched up with the opponent's No. 1 line, and he was a mainstay in Vancouver's penalty-killing unit.

Musil, 18, had even been part of the Giants' top power-play unit of late, and he had four points in his last five games, pushing him to 27 points, with six goals, in 59 games.

He had been playing with an ailing wrist for about six weeks.

Vancouver does have some experience without him, though.

The Giants have gone 5-6 so far this season when Musil's been injured or representing the Czechs at the world juniors.

"We've been in this situation and we've won games," said 19-year-old Giants defenceman Wes Vannieuwenhuizen.

"The strength of our team is our systems. We just have to put in a good effort and compete every night."

It wouldn't be surprising to see the spirited Vannieuwenhuizen, who usually paired with Musil on the first-unit penalty kill, take on more shutdown duties.

Hay said that his ice time would see a minimal increase, as would that of Neil Manning, 20, and Brett Kulak, 18.

Hay put the challenge out to veteran Tyler Vanscourt, 19, and Blake Orban, 18, and Kiefer McNaughton, 18, to play like legitimate top-four defenders.

"We're looking to see this weekend amongst those three guys who can step up and handle more," said Hay.

Fyten, 20, said Wednesday from Calgary that he likely wouldn't play Friday at home against the Rockets (7: 30 p.m., AM 650) because he missed a day of practice to see his doctor.

There had been suggestions in the Vancouver camp to give him a try at centre instead of his natural left wing spot, and, since he played some minor hockey alongside Brendan Gallagher, it wasn't far fetched to see him getting a shot between Gallagher and Marek Tvrdon on the No. 1 forward trio - but the injury to the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Burns may have scuttled that.

"There's more of a need for a left winger for us," said Hay. "We lost a top-six forward in Nathan and he would fit into that position."

Burns, 18, had 12 goals and 34 points in 55 game with Vancouver this season. Fyten had 24 goals and 54 points in 52 games last season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

He blew out his knee in the preseason, had surgery and Lethbridge, not thinking he'd be back in time to be a factor for them, opted to release him.

Vancouver nabbed his rights, taking a flyer on him after they dealt fellow overage James Henry to the Moose Jaw Warriors for two draft picks at the Jan. 10 deadline and failed to acquire another 20-year-old via trade.

Fyten's a cousin of former Giants winger J.D. Watt, and, like the cantankerous Watt, he has an edge to his game, evidenced by 103 penalty minutes last year.

He has 20 games of WHL playoff experience, including taking part in the WHL final against Spokane in 2008.

"What can Giants fans expect? It's hard to say," said Fyten, who's listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds.

"I'm definitely going to try and keep it simple to start. They're not going to see anything too flashy. But, before too long, I hope they're happy to see No. 16 out there."

© Copyright (c) The Province

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