The South Carolina Stingrays team that steps onto the ice this weekend won’t look much like the one that has been on display for the first month of the season.
Catching the Rays
Florida Everblades vs. South Carolina Stingrays
7:05 p.m., North Charleston Coliseum
Gwinnett Gladiators vs. Stingrays
3 p.m., North Charleston Coliseum
The Stingrays, the only team in the ECHL without a regulation loss, face the Everblades at the North Charleston Coliseum Saturday night with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line. The Stingrays then face Gwinnett Sunday afternoon.
Within the last week, the Stingrays have lost their team captain — defenseman Kevin Quick — plus four key forwards and their backup goalie due to injuries and call-ups.
But that’s life in the ECHL.
Quick, who broke his leg a week ago against Greenville, will be out of the lineup for at least three months. Chris Langkow was called up to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, and Friday morning Justin Maylan left the team to play in Europe.
Forwards Jack Downing and Igor Gongalsky have missed the last two games with what the team describes as upper-body injuries. Neither is expected to play against the Everblades. Backup goalie Adam Morrison is out after suffering an injury in practice this week.
“For the first month of the season, we were pretty healthy and we didn’t have many call-ups and that’s unusual,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “This time of year you are rarely at full strength because if you don’t have guys out of the lineup, then teams above you do and they are looking for players.
“To be honest, I thought we were extremely fortunate not to have more guys either injured or called up for that first month. That’s why when you do have everyone in the lineup, it’s important to get as many points as possible.”
It’s also the major reason Carbery put together a deep lineup over the summer. Even with key players missing, Carbery is confident the Stingrays can be successful on the ice.
“This is when your depth is truly tested,” Carbery said. “We knew this was coming during the season. We’ve talked about it. I know that at some point down the road we’re only going to have 14 guys in the lineup. We’ve got to battle through that.
“We’ve had four or five guys sitting in the stands for the first month of the season. They’re rested and ready to go. We’ve had some good players out of the lineup because of our depth, and now is their opportunity to go out and produce.”
Because of the depleted lineup, especially at center, several players will be shuffled around in the lineup. Veteran Jordan Owens, who has been on the wing for the first 11 games, will play center against the Everblades.
“Jordan is a very versatile player,” Carbery said. “He has played all three forward positions during his career. I wouldn’t say that center is his most natural position, but he’s a very capable centerman.”