67's could have thin blue line

SHANE ROSS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

The 67's will open their OHL season Sept. 18 in Sault Ste. Marie with a new coach, new captain and new jerseys.

They could be without their top two defencemen.

Their top goal scorer wont be back until at least the new year.

Were going to make some mistakes, but well work hard and hopefully well learn quickly, said coach Chris Byrne, who has succeeded Hall of Famer Brian Kilrea.

Byrne will have to find someone to fill the leadership void left by graduating captain Logan Couture.

Defencemen Tyler Cuma and Julien Demers would be candidates, but they have the best chance of sticking with the pros out of the six 67's who are at NHL camps.

What happens with Tyler Cuma (in Minnesota) and Julien Demers (in San Jose) will have an impact on our blueline and who plays what minutes, said Byrne. But were comfortable with the guys we have here, guys like Travis Gibbons and some of the veterans from last year.

Byrne said the organization is also excited to have first-round draft pick Cody Ceci, 15, here for more than a few years.

Chris Perugini will be the No. 1 goalie, but Byrne expects rookie Petr Mrazek to push him for ice time.

The loss of veterans Couture and Thomas Kiriakou will open opportunities for sophomores Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale, Byrne said.

Much of the teams success will depend on when, or if, the players in NHL camps return. Besides Cuma and Demers, the group also includes Perugini (Phoenix), defenceman Marc Zanetti (Boston) and forwards Anthony Nigro (St. Louis) and Matias Sointu (Tampa).

Zanetti and Perugini are invites, and probably they will be back sooner rather than later, end of the week or early next week, Byrne said.

Senators draft pick Corey Cowick, whose 34 goals led the team last year, injured his shoulder in the 67's first pre-season game. He had surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be out 4 1/2-6 months, said 67's new head trainer Neil Hoch. The overage forward will start rehab tomorrow.

These next few days will probably be the worst for him, Hoch said. He told me he wants to put the skates on already.

The 67's play their final two preseason games at home on Friday and Sunday vs. the Kingston Frontenacs and Belleville Bulls, respectively. Their home opener is Sept. 25 against Niagara.


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