The Smoke Eaters are holding their injury list close to their vest, so just how many much-needed returnees will suit up this weekend is still a mystery.
After going 7-1 to start November, Trail limped to a 2-0-1 record to finish the month and the level of competition remaining on the way to the holiday break would present some challenges even to a fully-staffed squad.
Injuries have occurred on all four lines, meaning new threesomes had to be created, with the attendant confusion and on the fly mixing and matching causing cohesion problems. That will happen when four of your top 10 forwards miss meaningful time.
According to the Smoke Eaters, “some,” of the injured skaters will be back sometime soon. Here is hoping it is a lot of them, and very soon, because the run-in towards Christmas presents a serious challenge. Away games against Vernon (2) which has dominated Trail to the tune of 13-0 on Cominco Arena ice, Wenatchee, which has defeated Vernon twice recently, and West Kelowna will be, politely, difficult, and the home games are against Merritt (2), against whom the Smokies just lost, and a clearly surging Nanaimo Clippers.
If the lineup cannot be strengthened, soon, it is not unimaginable that the Smoke Eaters, a worthy first place franchise not long ago, could fall as far as fifth or sixth in their division.
The back end of the squad is still holding up nicely, but the formerly most potent offence in the league needs to show some signs of returning to full power, because just being competitive into the Christmas season will not be enough for Trail to remain high in the interior rankings.
• The only home game in two weeks is Saturday. Here’s hoping the club can get back on track by then.
Not often this happens, but the Nitehawks, too, are struggling. After an undefeated October, Beaver Valley went 2-6-1 last month, in part, as with the Smokies, because of injuries. It is not a usual thing to see BV dropping in the standings this deep into the season, and It will probably turnaround, but that may need to happen soon,
All intra-division games on tap before Christmas, so the standings will be deeply affected by the break. A positive is that the games against top tier division opponents are all at the Hawks’ Nest. If the turnaround is going to happen, that is where it will start.
Assuming Beaver Valley has its usual success in away games in Spokane, next Friday and the following weekend -Nelson, Grand Forks, Castlegar – will be home barn opportunities the Hawks direly need to to take advantage of.
Healthy lineups will be high on the pre-Christmas wish lists for both local squads.
Maybe cross your digits, too.