Stokes back on offence

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

It appears Keith Stokes, after a two-game hiatus from the offence, will be back in the fold Friday night.

And another little spitfire might be joining him.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers must shuffle their receiving corps for Friday's crucial home game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats because both Markus Howell (hamstring) and Derrick Smith (groin) are out.

That means 5-foot-8 speed demon Hugh Smith, who started working out with the club a month ago, could draw into the lineup for his first CFL game. The other possible replacement is veteran Robert Gordon.

Meanwhile, with Howell out of the lineup and non-import Kamau Peterson (knee) expected to miss his second straight game, Stokes would re-join the offence as the fifth receiver.

That leaves Jamie Stoddard and Gilles Colon as the only non-imports in the receiving corps, but GM Brendan Taman doesn't feel the need to add another non-import pass catcher.

"Not as of now," Taman said yesterday. "Not just yet anyway."

Defensively, linebacker Terry Ray (charley horse) won't play Friday and will be replaced by Ryland Wickman, who was a healthy scratch for Saturday's game in B.C. after missing two matches with a separated shoulder.

Also, safety Wes Lysack (thigh bruise) is expected to make his Bombers debut Friday, which means Geoff Drover could move back to receiver, Taman said.

The team's struggling secondary could also receive a boost with the return of Stephen Fisher, who sat out Saturday's game because of two hamstring pulls.

NOT D-LIGHTFUL: Bombers head coach Jim Daley knows something has to be done to shore up his defence, which was shredded for more than 1,100 yards in back-to-back losses to division-leading Montreal and B.C.

"(Montreal's) Anthony Calvillo and (B.C.'s) Casey Printers had too much success passing the ball against us," Daley said. "Part of that could very well be coverage, part of it could be pressure. We have to get better in that regard defensively.

"Against B.C. we were almost dead-on -- 50% man-to-man and 50% zone -- and struggled in aspects of both. At other times, we made some good plays.

"... We were able to contain him, but we weren't able to affect the pass enough to help the secondary."

Defensive tackle Joe Fleming, who played his first game Saturday since the Khari Jones trade, felt the D-line did all it could do to get to Printers.

"He didn't really escape on us and take off like he likes to do," Fleming said. "We contained him and we put some good hits on him, but he's a great quarterback and he made his plays."

The Bombers have the CFL's second-worst marks in three defensive categories -- pass defence (314 yards per game), run defence (107) and total yards (397).

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS: Daley knows his players will talk about the numerous playoff scenarios that could unfold, but he doesn't want to hear about it.

"Certainly from the fans' perspective it's ... a very interesting race," he said. "From a coaching one, it's more hectic and there's a lot more pressure.

"I don't even want to spend one minute thinking about it because there's so many combinations. The only thing I want to think about is Hamilton."

The Bombers, who are fourth in the West Division at 6-9, will make the playoffs if they win their remaining three games against Hamilton, Edmonton and Calgary.


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