Based solely on the "funny looks" teammates shot him when he arrived for practice in Odessa about a month ago, Paul Kelly knew something was up.
The suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later when he was summoned to the office of coach Paul Gillis.
"It's never good when you get called in early in the morning like that," Kelly said.
The news was this: Kelly had been traded to the Wichita Thunder.
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More specifically, Kelly had been traded from playoff-bound Odessa to the last-place Thunder.
"It was tough when I first heard about it," Kelly said. "I played there (in Odessa) last year, too, so I had a lot of buddies on the team. And Wichita's record was no secret.
"But I looked at is a chance to showcase what I can do. For everybody in this league, it's a one-year gig, so you have to show up and perform."
After a slow start in Wichita, Kelly has been performing at a very high level, making the trade appear to be quite a steal for the Thunder.
A centerman from West Peabody, Mass., Kelly has three goals and eight points in his last four games. He is also one of the Thunder's top options on face-offs.
Troy Ofukany, the player the Thunder gave up in the deal, has played in just three games and has zero points in Odessa.
Kelly, a fifth-year pro with more than 300 career games, attributes his recent hot streak to a pair of factors: his teammates' help and the fact that he has played himself into better shape.
Odessa, Kelly said, had 11 forwards, so playing time was sometimes scarce. In Wichita, he is getting plenty of ice time, and making the most of it.
"He's played great," interim coach Jason Duda said. "He's a very confident player. He's strong with the puck, smart with the puck. He makes good decisions."
Notes — Defenseman Anders Strome, claimed off waivers, is expected to make his Thunder debut tonight.... Injured Steve Makway is expected to return to the lineup.... Tonight's opponent, Missouri, has 20 wins, including seven against the Thunder.... The Thunder has lost a league-record 16 straight games at home.