Kozun’s health key to Hitmen

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

BRANDON — Brandon Kozun, the CHL’s top scorer this season, only skated for about five minutes.

It was enough to brighten the day of Calgary Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson.

Kozun pulled on the blades Friday morning for the first time since injuring his ankle in the final game of the WHL Championship a week ago.

Considering Kozun’s

107 regular-season points edged both Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall — expected to go first and second overall in next month’s NHL draft — the Hitmen coach had reason to worry about his star’s health for the Memorial Cup.

Williamson was asked if he liked what he saw during his top weapon’s quick tour around the ice.

“If he’s on the ice, I like what I see,” Williamson said with a smile. “We’re a better team if he’s playing.”

Whether or not he’ll suit up Saturday afternoon against the Moncton Wildcats will be a game-time decision.

For his part, Kozun was saying all the right things.

“It felt pretty good,” said Kozun, who led the WHL in scoring both during the regular season and in the playoffs.

“I got to skate around a bit and test it out. In my opinion, I think I’ll be ready for sure.”

Kozun hurt the ankle early in the second period of last week’s Game 5 victory over the Tri-City Americans when he slid feet-first into the boards.

He did not return to the game, but later joined teammates and gingerly skated around the Saddledome ice with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

He missed all of the team’s practices during the week, insisting all along his absence was just precautionary.

Of course, injury updates during the playoffs don’t exist. The slightest bumps and bruises are shrouded more tightly than the Caramilk secret.

In this case, everyone knows exactly where Kozun’s ‘lower-body injury’ is.

The extent of the affliction is still up in the air, but the Los Angeles Kings prospect said he’s confident he can suit up.

“It’s not a matter of what

I can’t do,” Kozun said. “It’s a matter of pain and what I can deal with.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a little painful, but I’ll be able to battle through it, I think.”

If Kozun was a big, lumbering defenceman, the ankle might not be as much of an issue. Montreal Canadiens giant Hal Gill was able to hobble around on one leg in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But Kozun’s game revolves around speed and mobility.

“My speed was basically the same,” Kozun said. “I wanted to continue to practise but Mike wanted me to go off (the ice) and rest it for another day.”

It was the side-to-side movements Kozun found more difficult Friday.

“Going straight, up and down, I felt great,” he said. “Maybe going side to side,

I felt it a little bit.

“I think the first game will be a feeling-out process to see how it holds up.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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