Without a word Adam Taylor brought a cup of Gatorade to assistant coach Ryan Wade after practice on Thursday morning.
The Victoria Salmon Kings are in good spirits these days. Even Taylor, who’s shooting accuracy was less than that of Wade’s during a brief contest of “posts.” (Taylor came up short during the popular post-practice challenge, where players have to hit the post, with the loser bringing juice to the victors.)
The Kings ride a three-game win streak going into Friday night, having defeated the Bakersfield Condors 3-0 on Wednesday. It brings the Kings within four points of the Condors in the Western Conference standings.
On the ice at practice was Josh Aspenlind, his first skate with the team since being reassigned from the Manitoba Moose on March 2.
It’s the 24-year-old’s second assignment to Victoria this season, having played here for the first 25 games of the campaign. His stint with the Moose lasted 22 games from Dec. 12 to March 2, though he was in and out of the lineup in the recent weeks.
When the Vancouver Canucks dealt for Maxim Lapierre on Monday’s NHL trade deadline, it also brought in AHLer MacGregor Sharp – the numbers game bumped Aspenlind back to Victoria.
“It just happens that way. I’m not sure what the plans are for me (here), but it’s good to see the boys are playing well and to get some minutes,” Aspenlind said.
Despite being considered a high-energy player, he has yet to score this season. Skating on a line with Tim Kraus and Rick Cleaver in practice, it’s safe to say he has a pretty good chance to get his first marker this weekend.
Should that line stick together, Aspenlind will assume the hole vacated by Ryan MacMurchy, who has one assist in four games on a player tryout with the Abbotsford Heat.
The two are different players, however.
“Obviously (Aspenlind’s) game isn’t as skilled. He’s going to bang along the boards and dig pucks out for Kraus and Cleaver,” Wade said.
“Aspenlind will bring atmosphere to (the Save-on Centre). He bangs bodies and forechecks hard. It gets the crowd and the team going.”
With two key players, MacMurchy and Derek Couture (Connecticut Whale), signed to the AHL in the last week, the Salmon Kings are facing the inevitable situation all ECHL teams prepare for.
“You’re going to miss players like that, but we have to show we can win without those guys. It’s what makes a good ECHL team,” Wade said.
When Couture returned from injury he was a key cog in the turnaround that has the Kings surging as one of the hottest teams in the ECHL, despite still sitting seventh out of eight teams in the West.
Said Wade: “Couture was part of it, but the guys saw that it works when they buy into the system, and they have. We need everyone working collectively as a group.”
Canucks’ prospect Taylor Ellington of Victoria remains on the 21-day injured reserve list with ongoing concussion problems, as does Kings captain Pete Vandermeer, who is nursing a lower body injury.