Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Surgery for Rogers
by JIM SWANSON, Citizen Sports Editor
A decision made at the NHL level likely means the WHL career of Andy Rogers is over.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who signed the 19-year-old defenceman to a three-year entry-level contract in October, are arranging surgery on Rogers's wonky left ankle. The procedure will happen some time in the next two weeks, and Rogers expects up to 12 weeks of rehabilitation.
In order for Rogers to suit up for the Cougars again — he's played 51 games since arriving a year ago in a six-player deal with the Calgary Hitmen — Prince George will have to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"(Tampa Bay) is my employer, so I have to listen to the big guys," Rogers said Tuesday from his home in Calgary.
"They'd rather have me deal with it now and have me ready for training camp than to leave it. I respect their decision. It doesn't look good for coming back in the regular season, but hopefully we can go deep (in the playoffs) and I can come back and help."
Rogers, a first-round choice of the Lightning in 2004 (30th overall), has had ankle problems the last couple of seasons. He rolled it after returning to junior from Tampa Bay's camp, then tweaked it numerous times since, including the second-to-last Cougars game prior to the Christmas break.
"I got back to Calgary for Christmas and I was advised by my agent and my dad to go and get a second opinion, so I went and saw the Flames' doctor," said Rogers.
"He said it didn't look good and I should see a specialist. That sounded alarm bells in Tampa, and they know what kind of problem this has been for me so they brought me down to have their doctors look at it. We had MRIs and x-rays, and they found that there's pretty much nothing left in my ankle as far as ligaments go, and what was there is hanging by a thread."
The training staff of the Lightning haven't determined who will perform the surgery, but it may end up being Boston Red Sox team doctor Bill Morgan, known for his work on pitcher Curt Schilling over the past 18 months.
"I'm awaiting their call, and the word is it will be in Boston or Baltimore — the best part is they're going to find the best doctor they can to do it so we get it done right," said Rogers.
"This kind of surgery can be hit and miss."
Rogers is flying back to Prince George tonight. He'll stay for a few days, pack up his stuff, and drive back to Calgary to await the call from Tampa Bay.
The news is a blow for a Cougars team that is so short-staffed on defence that general manager Dallas Thompson was asking captain Myles Zimmer on Tuesday if he knew how to skate backwards. With Rogers and Jesse Dudas (leg bruise) out, the Cougars will face the Kelowna Rockets tonight with just five healthy blueliners — veterans Devin Featherstone, Ty Wishart, Curtis Cooper, Kalvin Sagert and rookie Chris Vanduynhoven.
"It's been a pretty tough season for Andy, and we never got to see the best he has to offer at all," said Cougars head coach Mike Vandekamp.
"I know as a coach we were so excited to get him back (from Tampa Bay's camp), when we weren't sure we were going to get him back. He was never really healthy, and he never was able to help our team the way he wanted to.
"It's frustrating, but I believe it's important in sports to worry more about what you have than what you don't have."
Dudas has gone home to Alberta to rest, and won't play tonight. Vandekamp optimistically put Dudas's return at two weeks, while Thompson said "two to three."
"Dudas went to see doctors in Edmonton, and we're satisfied it won't be a long-term thing like (Dan Gendur, who's been out since Oct. with a bruised thigh)," said Vandekamp.
"He needs rest now to let it heal, and we'll get him back healthy. He won't play this week."
Gendur skated lightly on Tuesday. When he'll be back is anyone's guess.
"We're hoping to get him back for enough games in the regular season so he's ready for the playoffs," said Vandekamp.
"We've missed him. We could use a right shot like his, he can really shoot it, and he'd help on the power play. We have that guy on our roster all year, he's just been unable to play.
"Not one night all season have we been able to ice our full team, and it doesn't look like it's going to happen."
Bowles handles heart scare
Scott Bowles wasn't sure what it was — excitement over watching Team Canada at the world juniors, or anxiety over the upcoming trade deadline.
He just didn't want the rapid heartbeat he was experiencing to be something else.
The 19-year-old Prince George Cougars goaltender missed three days of practice while tests were being done on a rapid heartbeat he reported to the team's medical staff. But Bowles was given clearance and returned Tuesday.
"I was feeling under the weather, and we wanted to be sure nothing was wrong," said Bowles.
"I had trouble getting to sleep for about two weeks. When I went home for Christmas, I wondered if it was stress-induced. I'm a pretty easy-going guy, and it wasn't going away, so I wanted to understand and have it stop."
Blood tests, a throat swab and x-rays indicated nothing of concern for Bowles, but a check of family history showed his mom's side of the family has had enlarged hearts. That is the diagnosis.
"My heart is enlarged because it's supposed to be, I guess, and it's not something I'm going to be worried about," said Bowles, who has a 2.26 goals-against average in 27 games this season.
"I'm not going to live in a glass bubble for the rest of my life."
The situation was handled correctly by everyone involved, said Cougars head coach Mike Vandekamp.
"He did the right thing by having it checked out, and we're glad it's nothing," said Vandekamp.
AROUND THE LEAGUE — The one name surfacing frequently in WHL trade rumours is Prince Albert forward — and Team Canada captain — Kyle Chipchura. That's not something Donn Clark, the general manager of the Raiders, likes at all.
"I've been very disappointed with that stuff," Clark told Gregg Drinnan of the Kamloops Daily News.
"He's a guy who is trying as hard as he can to play for our country and has enough responsibility as the captain of that team... and somebody with no basis starts those kinds of rumours. I'm terribly disappointed."
Clark went on to add that Chipchura is available — but so is everyone on his team.
"It would be foolish of me to think that anybody is untouchable when we're battling for fourth spot (in the East Division)," said Clark. "But in saying that, I'd be hard-pressed to say how we're going to get better by trading the captain of the national junior team."
One league GM said there are fewer blockbuster deals in the WHL than there used to be. The reason? Too many teams — there are 20 playing now, with the Chilliwack Bruins coming on board in the fall.
"I think the day of the blockbuster trade is over," he said. "We have watered down the product with expansion and now no one has any depth."
There was a deal in the WHL on Tuesday. The Portland Winter Hawks traded 17-year-old defenceman Justin Mazurek to the Tri-City Americans for a seventh-round 2006 bantam pick. Mazurek holds the award for having the season's weirdest injury — he hurt his shoulder in a pillow fight on the team bus.