Standing tall

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, Last Updated: 6:58 AM ET

Hard to imagine how much it hurts.

Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Adrian Van de Mosselaer's playing season ended when he broke his leg in January.

Ouch. But that pain is easy enough to calculate. Most of us have cracked a bone at some point.

Harder to imagine is what it feels like leaning on crutches while watching the team you play for make a late-season run for the playoffs.

HARD TO WATCH

"It's been exciting," Van de Mosselaer said propped up by the same crutches Friday after his team came back from their first-ever playoff game in Calgary Thursday night. "But the hardest thing is watching from the sidelines.

"It's been kind of a wonky stretch for me. I had a rib injury in November and then for this to happen, it's unfortunate.

"It's part of the game. You play the game and it happens. You just have to work from there and go towards next season."

The 18-year-old is of the classic defensive-defenceman mould, not to mention the biggest hitter on the team. With a penchant for making loud, board-bouncing bodychecks, Van de Mosselaer was half of coach Steve Pleau's top minute-eating pair alongside ace rookie Mark Pysyk.

Van de Mosselaer hasn't been able to do it on the ice, but he has still tried to provide the veteran leadership that helped a top prospect like Pysyk find his footing quickly.

"You can't do anything, can't go out there, can't make a hit, can't help the boys out," said Van de Mosselaer of the frustration.

"I definitely try to take a leadership role and help out (when playing). I'm not a confusing D-man. I try to keep it simple.

"Now that I'm sidelined I try to be there for them, try to help out. Especially at this time of the season.

"Sometimes guys don't want to talk, but you be there in case they do have something to say. And when they do, you offer them advice."

That there would be something to be part of was a surprise for many who followed the Oil Kings after Van de Mosselaer went down. Pysyk himself was off the ice for three weeks with a concussion shortly after his on-ice partner was lost.

The Oil Kings, who had started the season with the league's youngest defence had to rely on the youngest of the young.

"Adrian, that was huge loss," said Pysyk. Kieran (Friesen) went down for a bit, Jesse (Pearson) that was really tough," he said of another rookie who was lost after taking a puck in the face. "Tough to be losing defencemen like that.

"(But) with all the injuries, a lot of guys have been getting opportunities to play a lot more minutes than ususal."

Meanwhile, fellow rookies like Henrik Tervonen and Tyler Hlookoff stepped it up and veteran Brandon Lockerby took up some of the leadership slack on what would prove to be an interesting stretch ride that led them to Calgary today.

Pysyk summed it up neatly: "The whole season comes up to one weekend against Red Deer and we couldn't pull through there. So it came down to one game, then it came down to one goal," he said of the overtime playoff-clincher in Prince Albert.

NEXT YEAR SHAPING UP

It should translate to better things for next season.

"Next year Adrian will be back and we will have some good expereince on the back end with guys logging good ice time in all sorts of situations," said Pysyk.

"This is pretty aweseome," said Van de Mosselaer of the team's run.

"There's a lot of young D here and I'm very excited for them. Definitely a good experience and it's going to help us out next year with guys coming back with more experience more confidence."


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