One game in 11 days. Maybe we were spoiled with a midweek game last week but it just feels like the Reign haven’t played in forever.
The Reign have, however, been on the ice at Toyota Sports Center for practice each day this week, including a full-group skate today, like the two days prior.
Ontario should expect to see a big member of their lineup back in action tomorrow in forward Zack Mitchell. Mitchell has been sidelined since October 12, when he suffered an injury in Ontario’s home opener against Stockton. First skating on his own, Mitchell returned to skating with the full group this week and Mike Stothers declared him “very likely” to play on Friday against Tucson.
As Jon noted HERE, Mitchell’s absence has had an impact on the Reign team – Ontario has gone 0-2-2 (and lost in overtime in the game he left early with an injury) in the four games that Mitchell has missed and as Stothers points out, there’s a lot in Mitchell’s game that makes him a big part of the Reign lineup.
“He gives you a veteran presence,” Stothers said of Mitchell’s potential return. He’s capable of adding some offense, which is good, and he’s also capable of providing some defensive awareness. He’s a guy that plays special teams, a regular shift, he can play center or wing. The guy I just described to you, sounds like he’s pretty valuable, doesn’t he? We’ll welcome him back with open arms.”
The line pairings at today’s practice were as follows –
Moulson – Maillet – Luff
Eyssimont – Mitchell – Sutter
Morrison – Bauman – Herr
Etem – Rymsha – Imama – Devane
Defensemen (all in black, no particular order) – MacDermid, Lintuniemi, Clague, Reddekopp, Brickley, Roy
Budaj & Petersen
Mike Stothers on a young group learning how to win
I mean, it’s not just good enough to play okay or play well and not find a way to win, that’s what the game’s all about. Now, you go back to the development league, that’s truly what it is for these young guys to get better, but they don’t realize how hard it is. The hardest part maybe for them, is it’s every game, every day, every shift, every period, every minute. If you make a mistake, and we make mistakes because we’re young, they’ve got to start realizing the consequences of those errors and when we correct them as a team, we should be able to move on to something else. We shouldn’t have to keep going over the same mistake or alteration or adjustment, and I think that’s a hard part for these kids. If they’re supposed to be watching their point man in the defensive zone and they lose their coverage and they end up scoring, well that’s the difference in the game. That’s the difference between getting zero points or only one out of a possible two instead of getting the two. It’s a process.
On the younger players adjusting to the professional game and learning to be pros for the first time
Part of learning is making mistakes. We get that, but you have to actually start absorbing the message and then applying it. I think that’s the most challenging part for everybody and for some guys, it just takes longer. Sometimes, you have to find a different way to deliver the same message. Depending on upon when you ask me, if it’s right after a loss, but you have to accept what you are and where you are and where you want to be. I think we’re making some forward steps and that’s a good thing.
On Tucson coming in this weekend and what to expect from that matchup
I think they’ve gotten off to a pretty good start so it looks like they’ve got a pretty good team. They’ve got some returning players from last year, a team that had some success and you know what, they should be good. In the last few years, they’ve had a number of high draft picks that are now turning pro and it’s always a very worthy opponent. With where we are in the standings and in the win column, we really can’t afford to take anybody lightly. We respect our opponent always, but we’re hoping to get to the point where our opponents worry more about us than we do about them.
On playing at home and the comfort level of playing in Ontario
Everybody likes playing at home, especially when you’ve got great fans. We get tremendous support. The building’s always loud, the people are always rocking and they get right into it, that part of it’s fun. Right now, we’ve got to establish our method of play, whether it’s at home or on the road. We’ve managed to get a single point in [the first three games at home] and now we’ve got to dial it up a notch and make sure we’re getting that second point.