Rediker expects medical OK to rejoin Knights

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

Unless he gets a surprise verdict this morning, Frank Rediker will be sprung from solitary tonight.

After eight weeks out with an elbow injury, the oft-wounded London Knights defenceman expects to join the real hockey world when the Knights play Game 4 of their best-of-seven OHL Western Conference championship series against the Storm in Guelph.

His relief, should he get his physician's OK today, will be matched by a Knights coaching staff needing veteran help on the blue-line.

Injuries? Rediker has been like a one-man hospital ward since he came to the Knights from the Windsor Spitfires.

There was the knee ligament. Then, the knee again. Earlier, it was a shoulder wound. And a broken foot.

As if the injury bug was taunting him, most recent was a freak elbow dislocation during a game two months ago in Belleville. It came when he was playing his most solid hockey since joining the Knights and thriving on plenty of ice time.

"I came back from the knee and was starting to play the kind of hockey I'd always played and then the elbow incident happened," Rediker sighed.

The big, square-jawed defender from Sterling Heights, Mich., took a sardonic view of the elbow as the Knights practised yesterday without the leading players, given the day off after the team's 3-2 overtime win Sunday night.

"You don't hear about elbow injuries very often. Leave it to me. I'll figure out a way to do it."

It's as though the second half of Rediker's five-year junior career is making up for the relatively injury-free first half. Frustration doesn't begin to describe what a talented young athlete goes through watching from the sidelines as his teammates break records and win things like the Memorial Cup.

"The past 2 1/2 years have been one thing after another, but it's definitely made me much stronger," he said.

It has given him some expertise on rehabilitation and on other things.

"I played 2 1/2 years basically injury-free and things came pretty easily," the 21-year-old explained. "(The injury blight) has taught me a lot. I've learned not to take anything for granted."

Rediker's low point was not the elbow injury, but the second one to his knee. He'd just finished extended rehabilitation on it, the future looked rosy and then he was laid low again.

"The knee affects how you play so much more," he said. "It's a weight-bearing injury that obviously affects your skating. With the elbow, you can keep working, keep skating."

If, as expected, he gets the green light to play tonight, it's unreasonable to expect him to make a major contribution. But as the playoffs continue to unfold, expect his presence to be a large factor if the Knights can get past Guelph and into the OHL final.

Defence coach Jacques Beaulieu will welcome him back with open arms, stressing that his contribution will be determined by how comfortable he is in game conditions after being out so long.

"If Frank is cleared to play, we'll give him 10 minutes and see how it works out," Beaulieu said. "He's in good shape and he can skate. He's got an offensive side to him, but we need him to concentrate on D (defence)."

Rediker, drafted but unsigned by the Boston Bruins, just wants to get his career back on track in this, his final year of junior hockey. He's realistic about his return.

"I'm in good shape and I feel great, but you can't really simulate game conditions -- things like timing and game speed," he said. "But it'll come back quickly. I'm pretty excited, so the adrenaline will be flowing."

Hardly surprising in the circumstances.


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