Reddekopp suspended; Phillips ready to seize opportunity; injury update

The American Hockey League announced today that defenseman Chaz Reddekopp has been suspended one game, as a result of Saturday’s post-game altercations in Ontario’s loss against Tucson. Reddekopp will miss this Saturday’s road tilt against San Jose and is eligible to return to the Reign lineup the following Wednesday against Bakersfield.

From the AHL –

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League today announced that Ontario Reign defenseman Chaz Reddekopp has been suspended for one (1) game as a consequence of his actions in a game vs. Tucson on Oct. 12.

He will miss Ontario’s game Saturday (Oct. 19) at San Jose.

Frankly, it was a little surprising that Reddekopp was the only player suspended after that game. Nonetheless, with Reddekopp out for Saturday, we won’t see any questions (minus me asking this exact question this morning) about who will play on defense, barring any additional Reign players going out of the lineup. With Daniel Brickley and Sean Durzi still out injured, and Reddekopp suspended, expect Markus Phillips to draw in for the second consecutive game, after he made his season debut as one of seven defensemen in Saturday’s defeat.

“It’s not great to have your first game, where as a collective group, you’re not really on top of your game, it’s not fair to evaluate him after just one game,” Reign Head Coach Mike Stothers said of Phillips. “The thing with Markus is he’s been working so hard. He’s certainly shown the coaching staff that he wants to be here and he wants to be a part of it and he wants to improve, just because of the way he attacks and approaches practice. That’s a good thing, he’s a good character person.”

Phillips’ pedigree isn’t exactly an unknown. The fourth-round draft pick of the Kings has earned several accolades throughout his amateur career, which earned him his first professional contract over the summer.

“He had a good junior career, in Owen Sound and then in Guelph, ends up going to the Memorial Cup, the World Juniors, he’s had a lot of accolades and a lot of accomplishments and well deserved on his part,” Stothers said. “Now, he’s just trying to get himself established in his pro career. He had to wait a couple of games and when he finally got in, it wasn’t exactly well played from the whole team standpoint, so we’ll see where it goes. You can’t go wrong with Markus, because you can just see how much he loves to play, the passion, he wants to play the game. When you see a kid like that, you never count him out, that’s for sure.”

For a player that has been accustomed to playing a large role in the lineup during his juniors career, the change of being a healthy scratch was a bit different for Phillips. The rookie blueliner took it in stride as he awaited his turn to play.

“It was a little different,” he admitted. “Obviously I was expecting it, looking at the lineup we have here with the depth and there’s nothing wrong with it. It only pushes me to work even harder in practice to try and get in the lineup.”

His turn came maybe a little bit quicker than expected. Nine defensemen has quickly turned into six for Saturday afternoon’s game at the Shark Tank, pushing Phillips right into game action for the second straight contest.

Stothers talked about Phillips’ effort level in practice and his willingness to improve, even when he isn’t playing. The province of Ontario native felt that he did everything he could on the practice ice to stay ready to go and feels he has gotten better throughout training camp and now into the early stages of the regular season. Phillips feels that even without being in the lineup, he was able to contribute to the team in other ways, especially during practices.

“Just working hard in practice every day, trying to push [my teammates], trying to get them to push me,” Phillips said. “When you’re practicing out there with bigger, stronger, the older players, it’s only going to make you better as a player.”

The effort and character that Phillips has shown in the early stages of his professional career has not gone unnoticed by the Reign coaching staff. How the player has carried himself on the ice and in the locker room, with a positive attitude and support of his teammates, has gone a long way to showing the type of person he is to the staff.

“That’s how you know you’ve got a good character person, how he handles the adversity of maybe being the odd man out, how he supports his teammates,”Stothers said. “He’s been fully supportive of the other defensemen that were playing ahead of him and that’s a real good test for us as a coaching staff, to see how guys respond to that adversity. Do they sulk, do they mope, do they stop working…no, he just dug in harder and he was genuinely hoping for the success of whoever was in the lineup to do well. He’s just been waiting for his opportunity and that’s the sign of a good leader, a good character person and that’s the sign of a good kid that’s been raised well by his parents.”

When not in the lineup, Phillips looked at the bright side of being able to take in a couple of games from the “birdseye view” of the press box. He said that he hadn’t really been able to take in that view too often in his career and it offered perhaps a different perspective on certain plays, that he wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to watch from the bench, or on the ice.

And now, with the situation changing rapidly, Phillips is ready to continue his moment on Saturday.

“It just shows how quickly things can change,” he said. “Now that I have an opportunity, I just want to take advantage and not look back from here.”

Injury Update

Consider the aforementioned Sean Durzi and Daniel Brickley “week-to-week” at this stage in their recovery. Neither has skated this week with the Reign, neither will play this weekend in San Jose and there isn’t a specific timetable yet for the return of either player.

Forward Drake Rymsha, on the other hand, has skated with the Reign both days this week, in a non-contact red jersey. He’s not there yet, but is the closest of the three to seeing game action.

“Rymmer is back and participating in practice, in every capacity except for contact, so that’s good,” Stothers said.

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