Brayden McNabb, a Kootenay Ice alum, has a friendly bet with Calgary Hitmen product Martin Jones on their clubs’ first round Western Hockey League playoff series. Through four games, it’s not looking particularly good for McNabb, whose Ice trail the series three games to one.
Things are looking up at the NHL level for McNabb, who once again will be able to etch out his own opportunity in the wake of Andrej Sekera’s lower-body injury. Sekera is out indefinitely, so McNabb, who didn’t play on the most recent road trip because of Alec Martinez’s return, will step in and look to continue the upward trend that arose from his game when he appeared in 19 consecutive games between February 9 and March 21. The Kings were 12-5-2 over that span, which culminated in back-to-back-to-back 18-plus minute performances.
Whether or not it was a challenge to leave the lineup given the improvement he had shown, McNabb understood the circumstances.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’ve been around a lot of experience, so I understood it and I just wanted to make sure I was ready for a chance like this. So there was a lot of preparation when I wasn’t playing for times like now.”
In 65 games, McNabb has one goal, 23 points and a plus-eight rating. In the 19 games prior to leaving the lineup, he posted 10 points (1-9=10) and a plus-six rating.
Brayden McNabb, on the excitement of joining the lineup at a critical juncture:
For sure, it’s an exciting time. For us, or for my situation, to have a chance to help the team win at a crucial time, so I’m looking forward to it.
McNabb, on where the biggest improvement in his game has taken place:
Just all-around in the D-zone, everything from there starts and makes my game. It’s something that I’ve got to continue to work on. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’ve definitely made progress. [Reporter: Anything particular aspects in the defensive zone, whether it’s just reads, positioning?] I think a lot of it’s positioning. It’s figuring out conference in the game a little bit, but for sure a lot of it’s positioning. Once you have good positioning, you can grow with confidence and make the plays.
McNabb, on whether scoring production is important to him as a defenseman:
You always want to get points. But it’s like I’ve always said, it’s the D-zone where I’ve got to be good and where I’ll continue to play if I’m good in the D-zone. That’s something I’m going to work on and be good at.
Jarret Stoll is also expected to return to the lineup for tonight’s game against Edmonton. Stoll, who missed nine games due to a head injury sustained on a hit from Vancouver’s Derek Dorsett on March 12, will center Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis.
“He’s going to play as a third line checking centerman, and that’s how we’ll use him, and if he’ll hold up his end of the deal, that’s all,” Darryl Sutter said. “I trust what he’s going to do. He’s well rested and he’s healthy. If you’re well-rested and healthy, then you should perform. Maximize your skill set.”
In 67 games, Stoll has six goals, 15 points and a plus-four rating.