Camp notes: Beefing up on ‘D’, the plan for Saturday, etc.

If this were the regular season, it wouldn’t be a story. But since it’s training camp, a time when coaches are supposed to have more players than locker stalls, the fact that the Reign still only have five defensemen on the ice is sticking out like a sore knee (Jason Fredricks), a case of mononucleosis (Adrian van de Mosselaer) or an unexpected immigration hang-up (Chad Starling).

The group grew by one today, to five, when Travis Gawryletz was cleared to join on-ice activities. Gawryletz (pronounced GAR-lits) came from the Manchester Monarchs’ camp and becomes the fifth player in Ontario with at least 30 games of AHL experience over the two last seasons (Dylan Yeo, J.D. Watt, Brady Calla and Derek Couture are the others).

Gawryletz was beaten out for an AHL roster spot by Jordan Hill, who re-signed with the Reign over the summer, but was whisked away when the Monarchs signed him to an AHL contract yesterday. Both defensemen were in the Monarchs’ camp on tryouts.

Fredricks and van de Mosslaer aren’t expected to be ready until November, while Starling’s arrival date remains up in the air. That means that Jason Christie has some work to do if he wants three defense pairs in time for Saturday’s exhibition opener against Las Vegas.

“We have to take a different avenue now because we had (Hill) penciled in,” Christie said. “Gotta work the phones. Got two days to get it done.”

Some more notes:

  • Nobody was cut today, so the forward lines stayed the same. Francois Brisebois joined the team just in time for the second half of practice, during which …
  • … Christie introduced some basic elements of the power-play setup for the first time since camp began. The instructions weren’t too detailed and Christie only broached the topic “in case it came up” that the Reign had a power play against the Wranglers on Saturday/Sunday. Why? “Half the guys won’t even be here” when the regular-season begins. “You don’t get into systems until next week, when the roster’s set,” he said.
  • So what will Christie be looking for in the exhibition games? “All you want to see is them as players. Who they are, what they can bring, how they react to the game.”
  • Gawryletz isn’t traditionally a point-producing D-man, but could be asked to fill that role with the Reign skating short-handed on the blue line. “I’ve done a little bit of that. At the next
    level I was more of a penalty-kill, defensive guy,” he said. “I look forward to
    getting some power play time and letting a few shots go.”
  • Look for Shayne Neigum and C.J. Stretch, among others, to be featured in the “Hockey 101″ video segment during Saturday’s game.
  • Watt played in the first regular-season game at CBBA on Oct. 25, 2008 as a member of the Las Vegas Wranglers. Give yourself a pat on the back if you were there to see the Reign win 4-1, and remember Watt going scoreless and taking two minor penalties.
  • The first game of the ECHL preseason is in the books.
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