Silvertips open second half with new faces

EVERETT — After a lengthy break, the Everett Silvertips are ready to return to the ice.

But when they do they’ll have a somewhat different look.

Everett likely will have several new faces in the lineup tonight when the Tips kick off the second half on the road against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

The Tips resume play after an 11-day layoff for the holidays. When the players returned to Everett, there were four new faces at practice as the Tips try to plaster over the cracks caused by players being unavailable because of international duty and injuries.

“We’ve got some new faces,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “We’re missing some bodies, so it’s just something we need to do.”

The most significant of those call-ups is winger Mitch Skapski. The 16-year-old native of Abbotsford, B.C., was one of the four players Everett acquired in the trade that sent defenseman Seth Jones to Portland during the offseason.

Skapski chose not to attend Everett’s training camp in August, instead committing to play for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League. He had three goals and five assists in 29 games with Chilliwack before deciding to sign a WHL education contract with the Tips.

Skapski, a pint-sized (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) agitator who also has a history of producing points, will spend the remainder of the season with Everett. He becomes the third player from the Jones trade on Everett’s roster, joining 18-year-old defenseman Ben Betker and 16-year-old winger Tyler Sandhu.

The three other players Everett called up will remain with the team until players return from their international commitments. Sixteen-year-old winger Kyle Raymond, a native of Langley, B.C., was called up for the second time this season. Fifteen-year-old defenseman Kevin Davis, from Kamloops, B.C., was Everett’s first-round pick in this year’s bantam draft and had already signed with the Tips. Seventeen-year-old winger Logan Aasman, who hails from Medicine Hat, Alberta, is an undrafted player.

“We’re missing some guys, so we have to fill spots, right?” Tips defenseman Nick Walters said about all the new faces. “They’re new guys, but they’re nice kids. It’s good to meet them.”

The call-ups are required because Everett has three players away on international duty and three others dealing with physical ailments.

w Defenseman Mirco Mueller is playing for Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

w Winger Tyler Sandhu and center Ty Mappin are with Team Pacific for the U-17 World Hockey Challenge.

w Winger Dawson Leedahl was scheduled to play for Team West at the U-17s, but was ruled out because of a medial collateral ligament injury to his knee suffered on Dec. 11 at Tri-City. There’s no timetable for his return, but typical recovery for that kind of injury is four-to-eight weeks.

w Winger Ryan Harrison came down with the flu during the break and was delayed returning to Everett. He’s questionable for tonight.

w Center Kohl Bauml, who’s been out since Dec. 4 because of a shoulder injury, practiced Thursday but is still considered questionable.

But despite the temporary roster turnover, the Tips are ready to get going again following a lengthy layoff.

“The break was good, but after a couple of days you get anxious to get back,” Ferner said.

“I know our guys are excited to get back on the ice, and that’s a positive thing,” Ferner added. “Obviously our first half wasn’t what we wanted to be, we went through a lot of adversity and we’re still going through that. But our guys are excited.”

Ferner said that while the coaches may have overindulged a bit at the dinner table during the break, the players seem to have shown restraint.

“I just had one turkey meal and that was it,” Walters confirmed.

“It was good,” Walters added about the break. “I went home, saw a lot of family and friends and got my mind away from hockey for a little bit. But I’m looking forward to (tonight). Hockey is one of those things where when you don’t play, you kind of get antsy to get back on the ice. I was looking forward to getting back and seeing all the guys again.”

Everett had a little extra time to prepare this season. Typically the Tips have just one day of practice before the first game of the second half. This year Everett had two days of practices to wake the muscles back up.

But once the games begin the Tips jump right back into the deep end with three games in three nights. Everett plays home-and-home against Seattle tonight and Saturday, then heads to Kelowna for a game Sunday.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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