Some notes from today’s Reign practice, with stick taps out to Joey Zakrzewski for his assistance as I’m dealing with family matters and could not attend practice.
The Reign, with collective fingers crossed, are closer to getting some of their many injured players back on the ice.
Head coach Mike Stothers said after Sunday’s 5-4 win over Rockford that the team was getting closer, with an emphasis on the “er” in closer.
“Well, we are getting closer,” Stothers said. “I saw a pretty lean, fit-looking Michael Mersch today doing a really intense workout today on the ice prior to us going on the ice. We had Teddy out there with a pretty good intense workout. … And we had Lintu, so on that note. … Yeah, we’re getting there. So, soon.”
Those same three players were on the ice for Monday’s practice at CBBA and Michael Mersch (knee) wore white while Purcell and Lintuniemi wore red no-contact sweaters.
“It’s been about six and a half weeks so just been working hard and trying to get back in shape or stay in shape as best I can. Get ready to go here,” said Mersch, who suffered a knee injury on Jan. 14 against Bakersfield and hasn’t played since.
“I’ve been a little sore from skating again but build that muscle back up in your legs that you can only do on the ice,” Mersch said. “I’m feeling pretty good just got to focus on the recovery because I’ve been on the ice a lot here. So, just try to get back to full strength.”
Purcell was injured in the first practice after the All-Star break in early February and Lintuniemi (groin) on Feb. 3 against San Diego.
“Hopefully soon,” Purcell said of when he might return. “It’s never fun when you’re out. I’ve been fortunate over my career to not miss a whole bunch of time. Sitting out the last three weeks or month is slow. Makes the days go by slower but I’m starting to get my legs under me. Today’s my first day back so hopefully a good step in the right direction.”
Mersch and Purcell are keys to the Reign offense and power play and their absence whether it be in the locker room or on the ice will be welcomed as Ontario has had recent success but at the same time has wavered from game to game with their focus. Despite their absences, both remain in the Top 10 in team scoring.
Paul Bissonnette (lower-body) and Zach Trotman (upper-body) remain a ways away.
For more, this is a very informative video put together by Joey Z with sound from Mersch, Purcell, Lintuniemi, Trotman and Bissonnette:
ZATKOFF RETURNS TO ONTARIO
Goalie Jeff Zatkoff started his pro career in Ontario during the 2008-09 season when the ECHL-Reign ruled the building.
As he returns — after clearing waivers and being assigned to the AHL affiliate by the Kings — he’s hopeful he can help his new teammates in the stretch run.
“I’m just looking forward to playing some games,” he said. “I didn’t play much up there and I’m excited just for the opportunity to be able to play and obviously the goal is to play in the NHL but for me my whole career, I’ve approached the same way. It’s work hard, be a good teammate and make sure I win games or try to win games when I’m in there. That doesn’t change where I am, that’s my same philosophy and just excited to get an opportunity to play.”
Reign No. 1 Jack Campbell has started 35 straight games and when Stothers was asked if he felt a bit more comfortable with the possibility of giving Campbell some rest, he tip-toed around the answer in a comical way per usual.
“I’m not sure that Soupy can play every game between now and the end of the season. I’m not saying he can either. I don’t have to say anything because we don’t play til Wednesday,” Stothers said Sunday.
This morning the Reign announced that they have released forward Miles Koules from his PTO. The 22-year-old appeared in two games with the Reign, making his AHL debut on Feb. 4 against San Diego. Koules, an LA native, had been a healthy scratch the last five contests.