While the Kamloops Blazers prepare to play two weekend home games, defenceman Tyler Hansen can only sit in the Interior Savings Centre stands and watch.
Hansen, 19, suffered a concussion during a 3-2 victory over the host Kelowna Rockets on Sept. 22. He hasn't yet shown that he is symptom free, so hasn't been cleared to return to practice and is questionable for weekend home games against the Seattle Thunderbirds and Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Magrath, Alta., native, who is in his fourth season, is the Blazers' No. 1 shutdown guy on the back end. He started the season paired with sophomore Tyler Bell.
Associate head coach Dave Hunchak, who runs the defencemen at the bench, said "the young guys" really played well during a doubleheader in Victoria on the weekend. The Blazers (3-0-1) dropped a 4-3 overtime decision on Friday, then beat the Royals 3-0 on Sunday.
Freshmen Josh Connolly, Ryan Rehill and Jordan Thomson, Hunchak said, "gave us real good minutes."
"The more they play," he said, "the better they get."
At the same time, Hunchak said, the Blazers "have to play defence by committee. And the way we played on Sunday is a telling sign that we can do it when we play that way."
In Sunday's victory, the Blazers gave up only 13 scoring chances as they surrendered only six shots in the second period and three in the third.
A big part of that was that the Kamloops forwards "did a good job getting pucks in deep and keeping them there, so we didn't have to play in our zone," Hunchak said.
Hunchak and assistant coach Ed Patterson ran Tuesday's practice, with head coach Guy Charron nursing some sore ribs.
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The Blazers have assigned F Devon Oakes, 17, to the junior B Kamloops Storm of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Oakes had offseason shoulder surgery and has been skating with the Blazers while awaiting medical clearance to return to contact drills. That clearance came this week and the Prince Rupert native could play for the Storm on Friday when it visits the Sicamous Eagles.
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The Thunderbirds (2-2-0), who are here Friday night, last played on the weekend when they split with the Cougars in Prince George, losing 4-3 and winning 2-1 in overtime.
Granted, it's early, but Seattle boasts the WHL's best penalty-killing unit, having given up just one power-play goal in 18 opportunities.
The Thunderbirds got some good news on Tuesday when Russian F Alex Delnov, 18, finally got clearance to play. Even though he played in three exhibition games, his paperwork didn't get cleared up until yesterday.
A 6-foot-0, 180-pounder from Moscow, Delnov had 22 points in 47 games with Mytischi Atlanti, an under-22 team, last season. He was selected by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round of the NHL's 2012 draft.
The Thunderbirds selected him with the eighth overall pick in the CHL's 2012 import draft. He did play in three exhibition games, getting a goal and two assists, as he showed that he is capable of being among Seattle's top six forwards.
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The Tigers (3-1-0) open a three-game B.C. Division swing tonight in Victoria against the Royals. The trek continues Friday in Vancouver against the Giants and concludes in Kamloops on Saturday.
The Tigers have scored 17 goals this season, with a WHL-leading 10 of those coming from the power play.
Medicine Hat F Hunter Shinkaruk, who turns 18 on Oct. 13, is the WHL's reigning player of the week, having picked up six points, five of them assists, as the Tigers went 2-0-0 last week. He had two assists in a 5-4 victory over the host Red Deer Rebels on Friday and followed that up the next night with a goal and three assists in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Regina Pats.
Shinkaruk, from Calgary, is expected to be a top 10 selection in the NHL's 2013 draft.
Also on the Tigers' roster is F Chad Butcher, a 16-year-old freshman from Kamloops. A third-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft, the 5-foot-9, 155-pound Butcher is pointless in three games.
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JUST NOTES: This is the start of a four-game homestand for the Blazers as they entertain the Victoria Royals on Oct. 10 and the Spokane Chiefs on Oct 12 before heading into the Central Division for five games in seven nights. . . . The first goal in the Blazers' 3-0 victory in Victoria on Sunday has been changed from D Brady Gaudet to F Cole Ully, who had two goals in Friday's 4-3 OT loss to the host Royals. That gives Ully three goals in four games this season; he had nine in 55 games last season. . . . Kamloops D Austin Madaisky, who is in camp with the AHL's Springfield Falcons, is scheduled to play in an exhibition game tonight in Providence against the Bruins. . . . Former Blazers head coach Troy Mick, the general manager and alternate governor with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, told the BCHL's board of governors Tuesday that the franchise is for sale.