67's crack whip, Couture OK to play

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

It appears the 67's were three times lucky this week.

While the third and final test results have yet to reach coach Brian Kilrea's office, doctors have all but completely ruled out the possibility that star centre Logan Couture has mononucleosis.

Couture, in fact, was given the green light to resume practising if he felt up to it yesterday -- which he did -- and now is a probable for tonight's home game against the Saginaw Spirit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 67's have likely experienced periods of tiredness the past few days.

In the wake of last weekend's disappointing road trip that saw Ottawa win only one of three, coaches Chris Byrne and Tim Higgins were cracking the whip while running practices for Kilrea, who has been battling a virus himself of late.

"I told (Higgins and Byrne) I didn't care how hard they make them work, they deserve it," Kilrea said. "I'd like to see a little more determination, that the game is important to them. You wonder about that when you see some of their attitudes."

The 67's, now 2-4, started the trip off with a victory in Windsor, but then lost by scores of 7-3 and 6-2 in Saginaw and London, respectively.

Couture, who has five assists but remains goalless through 41/2 games, left midway through the loss to the Spirit and didn't even dress for the matinee matchup two days later in his hometown.

That he was battling a bug and not mono, which has sidelined rookie Matt Ribeiro, is a blessing for the 67's, who could ill afford to be without their best player for a month.

Ottawa will be minus veteran defenceman Sean Ryan for at least tonight's game and Sunday afternoon's visit by the Guelph Storm, as he has a partial shoulder separation.

Kilrea had planned to start Swiss goalie Lukas Flueler against the Spirit, allowing him a chance to redeem himself against the team that chased him from the crease with four first period goals a week ago.

But Flueler's parents are flying into Ottawa tomorrow, and Kilrea will naturally ensure they see their boy play. That puts Brady Morrison (2-2, 4.56 goals against average) between the pipes this evening.

"We want to give (Flueler) a chance to get into the league," said Kilrea, whose rookie import has an 0-2 record with a 7.64 GAA. "He didn't have a good start (last Friday) but we were bad as a team."

Kilrea is expected to add some experience to his core of young forwards at some point, but he says it's tough to find a trading partner.

"The only time you deal is from strength," said Kilrea. "Right now, you look at our team and the way it's struggling ... it isn't very appealing."

NOTEWORTHY: Ed Nicholson, known through the Valley as a goalie with the Inkerman Rockets junior team in the late 1940s, died Tuesday in Detroit. He was 75.


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