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When it Rains, It Pours Concerning the Nailers

February 17, 2011
By SHAWN RINE, Sports Editor

WHEELING - Having 10 players on callup and another handful injured apparently wasn't enough for the hockey gods.

The shorthanded Wheeling Nailers had just finished losing a tough 3-2 game to Kalamazoo that cut their division lead to six points Monday night. The players and coaching staff then checked out of their hotel and boarded the bus as they normally do.

''I got on the bus and got off the bus pretty quickly,'' Wheeling coach Stan Drulia said Wednesday after practice at the Wheeling Park Memorial Ice Rink.

An apparent wiring issue in the vicinity of Drulia's seat, caused a decent amount of smoke and placed him on a hot seat like no other he's experienced during his career.

''We were fortunate enough to be able to check back in, and everything has been done the right way from our team perspective and we're all back here safe,'' Drulia said. ''That's all that matters.''

From a rest standpoint, however, it was a nightmare. Tuesday, which was scheduled to be the team's lone day off this week, suddenly became a travel day.

The Nailers play Friday in Johnstown, on Saturday in Reading, and then at Trenton on Sunday.

''The hits just keep on coming,'' the coach said.

Wheeling has dropped three in a row and 4 of 6 as its division lead was more than cut in half, thanks to a seven-game winning streak by the second-place K-Wings. Despite all this, Drulia has been particularly encouraged by the team's play of late.

''Our guys dealt with it really well last weekend and our forwards - all six of them - and our 'D' had to play up front, I thought did well,'' he said. ''We had our scoring chances (but) their goaltenders prevented us from getting enough goals. But overall, I was pleased with our effort.''

'D' up Front

Despite all the callups, the Nailers have only been outscored by one goal during that six-game stretch. Drulia says that's a credit to guys being able to step up and do whatever is necessary for the team.

Along those lines, guys like Mike Gershon and Trevor Hunt - defensemen by trade - have been taking regular shifts up front.

''Gersh played left wing for us a little bit last year, and that was one of the duties in signing him. I knew if push came to shove you had a guy who could help you up front,'' Drulia said. ''Did I think he'd be our sixth forward? No, but they've done a fine job.

''He gets himself into trouble, as Hunt or an 'D' would do, in responsibility of a forward in the defensive zone. It's definitely a different area. It's different footwork getting yourself available for pucks.

''That might be where they struggled a little bit, but other than that they do a nice job.''

Praise for Additions

Often times it takes players a while to get comfortable with their new surroundings following trades. Drulia said that hasn't been the case for Chris Minella and Sam D'Agostino, who came over from Cincinnati in exchange for Casey Pierro-Zabotel last week.

''Love 'em. They're good people, tremendous work ethic.'' Drulia said. ''D'Agostino came over really sick with the flu and shouldn't have played.

''He got us some minutes and allowed us an opportunity to play the game - we were only a guy or two away from not being able to field a team. We needed him in the lineup and he did a great job.''

Minella was brought aboard in an effort to beef up the right side. At least early on, he hasn't disappointed.

''(He) works so hard,'' the coach said. ''He probably threw five or six unbelievable hits in the first couple games. We brought him in here as a physical presence.

''I think he's going to be great for us when we get bodies back.''

Grant Returns

Defenseman Alex Grant was expected to report to Wheeling on Wednesday. Fans will remember he was injured in a scary incident in a Pittsburgh prospects camp that left him with a pretty messed up wrist.

Upon getting to town, Grant was scheduled to have a doctor appointment in which he was expected to be cleared, and thus available for action this weekend.

Another defenseman, Sabastien Bisaillon, is not quite ready. He's recovering from a broken hand and still has to be cleared for game action. Forward Alex Smigelski is still dealing with a concussion and there's no time table for his return.

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at

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