Seven strong

Tigers opt to play with seven de­fence­men af­ter re­lease of Heath­cote, re­turn of Craven

Medicine Hat News - - SPORTS - RYAN MCCRACKEN rm­c­[email protected]­hat­news.com Twit­ter: MHNMcCracken

Medicine Hat Tigers head coach and gen­eral man­ager Shaun Clous­ton says the team will be uti­liz­ing seven de­fence­men for the time be­ing fol­low­ing the re­turn of blue­liner Joel Craven, the re­as­sign­ment of winger Daw­son Heath­cote and a lin­ger­ing in­jury to cen­tre Eli­jah Brown.

Brown has been miss­ing from the lineup since suf­fer­ing a shoul­der in­jury in a 4-2 loss to the Saska­toon Blades on Nov. 13, while Heath­cote was sent to his home­town Nanaimo Buc­ca­neers Thurs­day. While the re­sult­ing sit­u­a­tion leaves the Tigers up one de­fence­man and down one for­ward, Clous­ton says he’s happy to give his young de­fen­sive corps ex­tra time to de­velop.

“With Joel com­ing back we had to make some de­ci­sions,” said Clous­ton. “We just felt, with the young group of D that we have, that we were go­ing to com­mit to seven D on a lot of nights, which means we dress one for­ward short and roll a vet­eran player down, dou­ble shift some­body and mix them up with the fourth line.”

Clous­ton added he spoke with Heath­cote about miss­ing a few games due to Craven’s re­turn team prior to the team’s four-game East Divi­sion road trip last week. That dis­cus­sion led to a mu­tual de­ci­sion to send Heath­cote to the Van­cou­ver Is­land Junior Hockey League for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment while rid­ing seven de­fence­men into the hol­i­day break.

“We talked about re­con­ven­ing af­ter the trip and just see­ing where it was for ev­ery­body, and I think this is sort of in the best in­ter­est of Daw­son and the team. He had lost a lit­tle bit of fire and wasn’t con­tribut­ing the way he wanted to, he wasn’t con­tribut­ing the way we needed him to, and hope­fully this is a pos­i­tive in the end.”

Clous­ton added there is al­ways a chance that Heath­cote could re­turn to the team in the fu­ture.

“I think it’s pos­si­ble,” said Clous­ton. “We’re al­ways eval­u­at­ing our 50-man list and as of right now he’s still on that list. We’ll leave it at that and go from there, if some­thing changes then we’ll ad­dress it at that time. We’ll see where he’s at and see where the teams at, see if Bobby (Fox, di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel) finds us any good young prospects.”

Brown is cur­rently listed as week-to-week. While Clous­ton says he does not ex­pect to see the 18-year-old cen­tre back on the ice un­til shortly af­ter the hol­i­day break, Brown has still been able to skate through­out his re­cov­ery and should be adding stick han­dling to his prac­tice rou­tine in the com­ing days.

“It hasn’t pro­gressed quite as quick as we thought or hoped,” said Clous­ton. “He’s get­ting a lot of skat­ing in, so hope­fully when he is cleared to play he is ready to go. Be­cause it’s an up­per-body in­jury he’s been able to do lots of con­di­tion­ing and skat­ing. I’m sure he’s look­ing for­ward to han­dling the puck, he’ll start that this week, but I think the tim­ing for him is a lit­tle bit too short to get back be­fore the break. Hope­fully he can con­tinue to get healthy dur­ing the break and be ready to go shortly af­ter.”

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