Last month, as St. John’s IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge answered queries about how he was going to deal with his team’s overflowing roster, he kept reminding his questioners about how, in hockey, situations can quickly flip-flop, and the day was probably coming when the exchange would be about how he would handle a roster shortfall.
The day of McCambridge’s prophecy hasn’t arrived yet, but it could be approaching.
The IceCaps suddenly find themselves with a minimum amount of defencemen after the Winnipeg Jets recalled two of them — Mark Flood and Brett Festerling — from their American Hockey League farm team.
That St. John’s would provide a rearguard to the parent club was not a surprise. The Jets, who already have defencemen Derek Meech and Ron Hainsey on injured reserve, lost another one Monday when Tobias Enstrom was knocked from a game against Florida by a hit from the Panthers’ Jack Skille. Enstrom is back in Winnipeg getting treated for an upper body injury and will miss at least the remaining four games in his team’s seven-game road trip.
But now it turns out Jets’ blueliner Mark Stuart is questionable for tonight’s game against the New York Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y., meaning extra insurance is required, hence the call for a couple of d-men from the IceCaps.
The biggest surprise, for some, may be that Paul Postma wasn’t among those promoted. Postma was the last defenceman cut from the Jets’ training camp, is tied for the St. John’s scoring lead with eight points and, like Enstrom, shoots right. However, Postma is minus three on the season, including a minus-two, no-points performance in St. John’s 6-3 win over the Worcester Sharks Tuesday, a game attended by Winnipeg assistant general manager Craig Heisinger and a number of Jets scouts.
Instead, the decision-makers — including Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel, Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and McCambridge — opted for the right-shooting Flood (1-6-7, plus-four) and left-shooting Festerling (1-3-4, plus-one).
Both also have National Hockey League experience, with Festerling having appeared in over 80 big-league games with the Anaheim Ducks, and Flood getting into a half-dozen games with the Islanders in 2009-10. Postma has one NHL contest to his credit.
There is no word on when — or if — either of the recalled defencemen will be returned.
Hainsey has been travelling with the Islanders and there has been some suggestion he could be activated before the road trip ends. But the player who could be coming back to the IceCaps the soonest is goaltender Peter Mannino. Jets veteran netminder Chris Mason remains day-to-day with a groin injury, but Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press reports Mason might be ready to return for the weekend.
In the meantime, Arturs Kulda and rookie Ben Chiarot — both scratches on Tuesday — look to be joining the IceCaps’ defensive corps for Friday night’s game against the Connecticut Whale.
Whatever the transactions, if there are any, and whatever the direction of any resulting player flow, the Jets and IceCaps will be in fairly close proximity for the next few days. Winnipeg plays in New Jersey on Friday and against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Gardens on Sunday. St. John’s, meanwhile, closes out a New England road trip with Friday’s date with the Whale in Hartford, a rematch with the Sharks in Worcester, Mass., on Saturday, and a game against the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport, Conn, on Sunday.
The IceCaps (6-2-3) are tied for the overall AHL points lead with 15.