As the Brandon Wheat Kings got in their last skate before boarding a bus headed for Alberta, they were joined by a familiar face.
Defenceman Ryan Pulock returned to practice with the Western Hockey League club Wednesday at Westman Place after missing five games with a chipped bone in his wrist. While he’s not quite ready to declare himself fit for duty for Friday’s game in Red Deer against the Rebels (8:05 p.m., CKLQ), Pulock said he was encouraged by yesterday’s session.
"It was great. You really notice how much you miss it once you finally get back out there," said Pulock who skated on his own before Wednesday.
"I obviously felt a little off at the start. … It’s a little bit of an adjustment with the cast on, but if I get another skate in (Thursday), we’ll see what happens on Friday."
With 10 goals and 31 points in 37 games, Pulock became the leading scorer on the Wheat Kings’ active roster after Alessio Bertaggia was traded to the Spokane Chiefs. But he’s had some tough luck in the past couple of months, missing six games prior to the Christmas break due to facial fractures sustained when he took a puck in the face. Unlike his last absence, when Brandon lost all six games, this time the Wheat Kings played pretty well without their captain, winning three times.
"It was a lot easier to watch this time than last time I was out," said Pulock, who traded in the full visor he had worn since the November injury for a standard half-shield on Wednesday. "We had a few pretty solid efforts, a few wins and even that game against P.A. (a 3-2 loss on Jan. 18), I thought we played pretty solid."
Still, no time is too soon for the Wheat Kings to get back their star player, particularly three games in three nights looming this weekend after they played half of Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Saskatoon Blades with only five defencemen following a Rene Hunter injury.
"We’ve had a few bumps and bruises on different guys in the last games and guys had to play a lot of minutes, so I think there’s going to be some fatigue there," Pulock said. "I think if I’m ready for Friday, it would be huge for our team just to have a fresh body back."
ONE-TIMERS: Hunter, who was hurt blocking a shot on Tuesday, did not practise on Wednesday but is not believed to be seriously injured … LW Nick Buonassisi, who missed Tuesday’s game due to illness, did not skate yesterday … Also out for the Wheat Kings are C Tyrel Seaman (concussion, indefinite) and LW/RW Richard Nejezchleb (hand, week-to-week), while LW/C John Quenneville (groin, day-to-day) practised in a non-contact jersey.