Trail Smoke Eaters: Trail gets bigger and healthier

With the acquisition of the six-foot-five, 210-pound veteran Penner, the Smokies will shore up an already talented blue-line corps.

The Trail Smoke Eaters dealt defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy to the Prince George Spruce Kings for towering defenceman Steve Penner and rugged forward Cooper Leitch.

With the acquisition of the  six-foot-five, 210-pound veteran Penner, the Smokies will shore up an already talented blue-line corps. The 19-year-old Prince George native has two goals and two assists this season, is strong and steady and notoriously hard to play against.

“Coming from a game where we got physically outmatched by Vernon, both players bring a physical presence to this group, which we’re finding out we needed to some extent,” said Trail Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes.

Leitch, meanwhile, is an 18-year-old, six-foot-two, 215 pound forward, who counted two goals and an assist in 27 games for the Spruce Kings.

“He moves really well for his size and I think his offensive numbers, being a first-year guy and probably not getting a lot of opportunity, are reflected of that, and I think the change of scenery might be good.”

This weekend the team returns to the Cominco Arena for games against the Vernon Vipers on Saturday and Powell River Kings on Sunday.

The Smokies are coming off a thrilling 3-1 win over the West Kelowna Warriors Friday, before falling to Vernon on Saturday.

The team has been battling significant injury and illness issues, but look to be healthier this weekend.

“It’s going to be a good test, and we’re almost healthy, except for Craig Martin . . . We’re in a little bit different situation from last week when we had four affiliate players dressed.”

Martin is out for a few more weeks with a knee injury, but the Smokies should have Penner and Leitch in the line up this weekend and will see the return of Bryan Basilico, Robert Johnson, and Jeremy Lucchini.

“It’s just the nature of the beast, a lot of teams have guys out long term. It’s a team sport and one guy will never make or break a team in my opinion no matter what the level, you always find ways.”

The Smokies have had a difficult time with the Vernon Vipers this season, unable to register a win in three matches.

“They’ve probably been the worst efforts we put forth this year especially in their building,” said Deschenes. “Putting a couple of those together is just not a good combination, but we have an opportunity on Saturday to redeem ourselves, and we’ll see how we respond.”

On the upside, Trail is 2-0 against a good Powell River team, which is 13-7-06 and currently sit in second in the Island division.

The Smokies played the Penticton Vees on Wednesday night in Penticton, but scores were unavailable at press time.

Puck drop against the Vipers goes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cominco Arena, and at 3 p.m. Sunday against the Powell River Kings. Special admission to Sunday’s game is $5 for all in attendance.

See more on the Trail-Penticton game in Friday’s Trail Times.