Dylan Willick didn't open any Christmas gifts on Monday, but he felt like he had.
Willick, the captain of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, hasn't played since breaking his right ankle on Nov. 2. Since then, he's been partnered with a pair of crutches and then a walking boot.
However, he visited with Dr. Richard McLeod yesterday and got the OK to return to working out and skating. If everything goes well and Willick gets in a couple of practices next week, he should be back in the Blazers' lineup when they meet the visiting Vancouver Giants on Dec. 29.
"Well, I'm walking. No crutches. It's healed," Willick, 20, said.
The ankle was X-rayed yesterday and, according to Willick, "It came back clean . . . 100 per cent . . . it's healed."
So now the grind begins as he works himself back into the condition necessary for a return to the lineup.
"All I'm working on right now is mobility and strength and balance . . . that's standard after being off it for a while," Willick said.
He will attend a daily physiotherapy session and also is doing some swimming. And, yes, he will be back riding a stationary bicycle.
"If I can find some ice time I'm allowed to go on the ice as soon as possible. I can't wait," Willick said. "Hopefully I find some soon . . . so I can be as ready as I can when everybody comes back."
The Blazers, who have lost their last three games, are scheduled to play the Rockets in Kelowna on Dec. 27. Willick doesn't know if he will be ready for that game, if only because he may have only had one full-contact practice by that time.
"That one will depend," he said, "on how much ice time I get and how the first practice goes when everybody is back.
"It's looking like the 29th is pretty close. I'm thinking the 29th is almost 100 per cent. Of course, it's still 12 days away and there are no guarantees but that's the goal I want to hit."
Willick admitted that he was a bit concerned about the ankle as he went for X-rays yesterday.
"It's still a little bit more swollen than I think it should be. But icing and elevating and whatnot . . .," he stated. "But once the doctor looked at the X-rays, he didn't even need to look at my foot. He said, 'you're good.' "
According to Willick, Dr. McLeod also told him the "swelling will just go away once you get some blood flow through there and get walking on it again."
Willick is especially excited to get back in the lineup because he was named the Blazers' captain on Dec. 5, meaning he has yet to play even one game with the 'C' on his chest.
The fourth-year forward from Prince George has 14 points in 20 games. The Blazers are 8-8-3 since Willick was injured.
Meanwhile, the Blazers have signed forward Mitch Lipon, 16, of Regina to a contract.
A list player and the younger brother of Blazers winger JC Lipon, Mitch plays for the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians.
Lipon has 33 points, including 13 goals, in 26 games with the Pat Canadians who, despite losing their last three games, are 17-7 with two ties, and in second place in the Saskatchewan midget AAA league. The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Lipon is tied for fourth in the SMAAAHL scoring race.
Lipon and defenceman Connor Clouston, 16, will join the Blazers next week and stay with them through Jan. 4. Clouston, a third-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft, is the son of Shaun Clouston, the general manager and head coach of the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers. Connor plays for the midget AAA Tigers.
Lipon and Clouston will be available for four games with the Blazers missing JC Lipon (Canada) and defenceman Marek Hrbas (Czech Republic), who will play at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, and defenceman Jordan Thomson, who will be with Team West at the U17 World Hockey Challenge in Quebec.