The Lethbridge Hurricanes are getting set to open the WHL regular season on Saturday against their arch-rivals in Medicine Hat.
The Hurricanes don't have a final roster yet and we might not know the exact line-up until opening night. A number of factors are at play here, including injuries, some illnesses, and players still at NHL camp. I spoke with Rich Preston about preparing for opening night in the Hat.
Pat: Is everyone excited to get things going for keeps starting this weekend?
Preston: "We sure are! It's kind of nice to have the week to prepare and practice and go over a few things. The league opens on Thursday in Moose Jaw and we don't play till Saturday. We'll be ready to go."
Pat: Where are you in terms of getting a roster secured for opening night? I know there's been some injuries and the flu going around.
Preston: "Yeah, we've had both injuries and the flu to deal with and with a couple of guys still at pro camps so we probably won't know our roster until just before the game."
Pat: What's the status of Austin Fyten? He was injured in the first pre-season game in Taber. Do you know how long he might be out?
Preston: "Well, he's seeing a specialist on Wednesday (Sept 21) at a clinic in Calgary and will get evaluated there. We'll know more then as to what's the next step for him. I'd hate to say anything right now as to a time frame. We'll just have to wait."
Pat: I know you said you'd likely be starting the season with three 16 year olds. Is there a chance given injuries and illness, you might have more 16's in the line-up Saturday?
Preston: "Well, we have four here right now Pat and one is hurt, Craig Leverton. So we do have three healthy 16 year old's to start. We sent Joel Topping back to Red Deer. He's really close, but it's tough to keep two 16 year old defencemen. We're keeping Erkamps who was the top young defenceman in camp. Joel was really close, but we want to make sure these players will play enough as 16 year olds, so with two or three 16 year old forwards and a defenceman, we thought it would be best for him to go back to Red Deer, be a leader there, and play a lot."
Pat: Have you heard anything back on Anderson and Sutter and how they're doing at their respective NHL camps and do you expect them back?
Preston: "They're both doing real well and getting in some exhibition action. They both went to rookie camp and stayed at main camp and playing exhibition games so that's good news for them. So we'll just have to wait and see. A lot of teams are going through the same things right now as far as rosters are concerned. Can you imagine being Portland, which has at least 10 guys still at pro camps? It's pretty tough to get ready for the season. You have to keep a lot of players around, until you get guys back. For the whole league, I think it's real tough at this time of year because you don't now who you're getting back or when and how many players you're going to keep. That's the unknown with all the teams right now."
Pat: Rich, do you anticipate any more trades or acquisitions in the near future?
Preston: "Yeah, we've been talking about it Pat. It's a real possibility. Depending on what happens with Fyten and how long he's out. I mean that's a big factor. Whether or not we get back Anderson and Sutter. We might have to replace them if they stick with their NHL farm teams. So we still have to explore those possibilities and make sure we can replace those guys if we have to."
Preston also mentioned the Hurricanes will begin the season on Saturday with Damien Ketlo and Tanner Kovacs as the two goaltenders.
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