SCHWAB READY TO PLAY
Troy Schwab, who has missed the past 10 games because of an undisclosed injury, is expected to return to the lineup when the Wichita Thunder plays at the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets on Friday.
As expected, Brent Cullaton was placed on team suspension to make room for Schwab. Cullaton, who filled in "nicely," according to coach Kevin McClelland, will return to his position as coach and general manager of the Junior Bison of the Western States Hockey League.
Schwab, who last played on Jan. 7, took a bus from Wichita to meet the Thunder in Independence, Mo., and skated with the team for the first time since the injury on Tuesday morning. McClelland said he looked "good."
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"We practice at such a high intensity, it was tough to get my legs under me, but I felt all right," Schwab said. "The conditioning may not be there, but as far as (the injury) goes, everything felt pretty good. It was great to be back with the guys."
The 5-foot-8 Schwab has been a huge addition to the Thunder. He has eight goals, including a game-winner, and 27 points in 29 games. The second-year pro is known as a hard worker and hustler, and he doesn't expect to change his style coming off the injury.
"That's the only way I know how to play; that's what got me here," he said. "I'm sure there will be a little feeling-out process when I get back, until I can get used to game speed, but that should only last the first couple of shifts."
McClelland said, "He's not a guy I worry about, you know what I mean? He's always in shape."
Schwab has played right wing for the Thunder, but he is expected to center a line with Jesse Bennefield and Lance Galbraith upon his return. The transition will be easier because Schwab played center for about 35 games last season when he was a rookie with the Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League.
"I love the wing, love playing the right side," he said, "but we need someone down the middle. I'm not afraid to move down the line."
* McClelland was in rare form on Tuesday afternoon. The Thunder's game against the Missouri Mavericks in Independence on Tuesday was postponed due to bad weather, but McClelland wasn't impressed by what Mother Nature had to offer. "Just a summer day in Canada," he said. The Thunder has two games left on its 10-day road trip. At the end of an interview, McClelland said, "Say hello to my family if you see them."
* The game against the Mavs will be made up on March 22.
* The Thunder is second in the 18-team CHL in scoring at 3.88 goals per game. (Allen is at 4.38.) Wichita has gone 11-2-1 in its past 14 games, averaging 4.21 goals. "We're pretty creative offensively," McClelland said. "We've got a lot of guys who are determined to score goals."
With two victories at Dayton, the Thunder evened its road record at 9-9. The Thunder had six road victories all of last season. "When you get good goaltending and you have the firepower we have, it seems like we can turn it on when we need to and get that tying goal and game-winning goal," Schwab said. "They don't have to be pretty on the road, as long as you get the win, and that's what the boys have been doing."
The fourth-place Thunder is hot — 8-1-1 in the last 10 games — but it's difficult to move up because upper teams in the Turner Conference are playing well too. Colorado has won four games in a row, and Bloomington has won five.
TAP OF THE STICK
Forward A.J. Gale enjoyed the weekend of his young career, scoring game-winners in both games over Dayton. He had the first hat trick of his two-year career in Friday's 5-3 victory. "He's just been a real treat for us ever since we got him from Texas," McClelland said.
TAP OF THE STICK II
Entering games on Tuesday, Matt Robinson was tied for the league lead in goals with 27. Rookie Marc-Antoine Gelinas was tied for the lead in wins with 19.
Number of consecutive games in which the Thunder has recorded a point.
HE SAID IT
"All the roads are shut down. So there's a lot of laying around, just taking it easy."
—Schwab on how the team was killing time in Independence