By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — For nearly a month the Everett Silvertips have circled the wagons, hoping merely to survive until help arrives.
But now the cavalry is coming, and the Tips are hoping it’s coming to the rescue.
Everett is getting three key players back from injury this weekend, and the Tips hope they provide the spark needed to snap their franchise-worst losing streak.
Everett, which has dropped its past 10 games, is expected to have goaltender Austin Lotz, winger Joshua Winquist and defenseman Austin Adam back on the ice for tonight’s game with Tri-City in Kennewick. The players’ returns couldn’t come at a more important time.
“No question,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson answered when asked if the return came at an opportune time. “We’ve got 12 games to go and it sure would be nice to have all hands on deck. We need two points real bad.”
It’s been a rough season for Everett on the injury front. Players have gone down in waves, and the malady has afflicted most of Everett’s top players at some point. The most recent collection of injuries included Lotz, the team’s No. 1 goaltender who’s been unavailable for nine games because of an ankle sprain, as well as Winquist, the team’s then-leading scorer who’s missed eight games because of an upper-body issue. It’s no coincidence that the bulk of Everett’s 10-game losing streak, which matched the franchise-worst skid suffered last season, occurred with those two out.
However, both have mended. Lotz suited up as the back-up last weekend, but would only have played in an emergency. He’s ready to return to action this weekend. Winquist practiced at full speed throughout the week and also will be back.
The other player Everett gets back tonight is defenseman Austin Adam. He has had a miserable season when it comes to injuries, appearing in just 23 games because of a combination of a broken thumb, concussion and most recently mononucleosis. He’ll be back after missing the previous 14 games.
Everett’s biggest problem during the losing streak has been scoring goals as the Tips found the net just 11 times in the previous 10 games. The most goals Everett scored in a single game during the streak is three, and the Tips were shut out three times.
The returning players should help in that area. Winquist, despite having missed 21 games this season, is still the team’s leading goal scorer with 21, and his 37 points are just one fewer than leading scorer Landon Oslanski.
“I don’t think there’s any question he’s our most natural goal scorer,” Davidson said of Winquist. “You can see it in practice, and he leads our team in goals scored. That’s certainly big plus for us. But we’re also going to have to score by committee.”
Adam’s return also indirectly helps Everett’s offense. While Adam is strictly a stay-at-home defenseman, his return means Oslanski can once again switch from defense to forward.
“We certainly hope it helps,” Davidson said about Oslanski’s return to forward. “Landon can really shoot the puck. That’s the thing he does, he shoots lots, which results in goals of his own and also creates opportunities around the net for other people to hopefully deflect or bang in some rebounds.”
And having Lotz back gives the Tips a final layer of security at the back. Daniel Cotton did an admirable job carrying the load in goal while Lotz was out. But Lotz was in excellent form when he went down and was single-handedly earning Everett points, such as when he made a franchise-record 65 saves in Everett’s 4-3 overtime loss at Kamloops on Jan. 23.
“When he got injured he was really on top of his game,” Davidson said. “It’ll be great if he’s back and right on top of his game, but we have to be realistic, too, as he’s been out for a couple weeks. But he’s looked good in practice and he’s woking hard.”
Despite the returns, the Tips haven’t avoided the injury bug just yet. Center Manraj Hayer is considered day-to-day because of a lower-body injury that’s prevented him from practicing, and winger Logan Aasman left practice Thursday after taking a shot off his arm. Their status for tonight’s game is unknown.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.