Sting play it close to vest on Yakupov's availability

JACK POIRIER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

SARNIA, ONT. - Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov's status for the final three regular season games is up in the air, team officials say.

Some news outlets, including Sportsnet, are reporting the No. 1 prospect for the upcoming NHL draft will miss the rest of the regular season due to an upper body injury. But Sting coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu said that has not been determined.

“If I was a betting man I’d say he’s not playing Wednesday (at home against Saginaw),” Beaulieu said.

The right winger needed stitches to his mouth following a devastating hit during by Owen Sound Attack captain Michael Halmo on Saturday. Yakupov got up and slowly tried to make his way to the bench before collapsing on the ice. He was tended to by the team trainer and doctor before leaving under his own power to the dressing room.

Yakupov, who leads the team with 31 goals and is second with 69 points in 42 games this season, will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Tuesday.

“We’ll know more after that,” said Beaulieu, who would not rule Yakupov out for this weekend.

The injury comes at a crucial point in the season for the Sting as they look to claim home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

The Sting lead the Attack by two points for fourth place and are five points up on the Saginaw Spirit. The Sting host the Spirit on Wednesday before playing their final two contests on the road against division leaders London and Plymouth.

The Attack play a home-and-home series against Guelph beginning Friday, while the Spirit host Windsor and Kitchener following Wednesday’s game.

Yakupov, who already missed time this season with a knee injury, has not skated since the hit and is receiving therapy daily, Beaulieu said.

Sarnia is also missing other key players to injury, including forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Craig Hottot and defencemen Alex Basso and Craig Robertson. All four have been skating, with Basso the most likely to return this week.


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