© Jason Malloy/The Guardian
Kameron Kielly is set to make his return to the Charlottetown Islanders lineup tonight in Saint John, N.B.
Kameron Kielly is ready to go.
The 19-year-old Charlottetown Islanders centre will play his first game tonight in Saint John, N.B., since being injured Nov. 14 against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
"(We're) coming down the homestretch now and I couldn't be happier to be back in the lineup," Kielly said Thursday.
On Nov. 14, Kielly went to the bench with what appeared to be an arm or hand injury. The team would only call it an upper-body injury, but it required surgery.
The Islanders went 2-9 from when Kielly was hurt to the Christmas break.
"It wasn't fun, especially when we went through that rough patch," said Kielly. "It sucks watching. You don't realize how bad it is until you really do it."
It is the longest Kielly has missed during a season since he began playing the sport. The Charlottetown native said the mental side was hard to deal with, but he leaned on others who had gone through it.
Former Islanders defenceman Ryan Graves, who missed the first part of last season with the Quebec Remparts following shoulder surgery, told Kielly to work hard in the gym and come back in better shape when he was able to get back on the ice.
There were some whispers Kielly might not be able to return to the team this season, but the reliable 200-foot player remained positive.
"I believed in what we were doing here with the rehab and the work we put in every day," he said.
Centre Filip Chlapik will play his first game with the Islanders in about a month tonight after playing in the world junior tournament in Finland.
"I think the lineup is slowly starting to come together with the roster we probably anticipated back in August," head coach Jim Hulton said.
"It adds to the strength and depth up front. At this time of the year, and come playoff time, depth is one of the key ingredients for good teams."
Hulton said he expected to reunite Chlapik with right-winger Daniel Sprong while Samuel Blais is likely to start as the line's left-winger. Kielly skated with wingers Keith Getson and Bradley Kennedy at Thursday's practice. But the head coach had proven he is willing to shuffle the deck.
"I'm not married to any combinations, so we'll play around with (it) a lot over the course of the weekend," Hulton said.
Tonight starts a stretch of three games in three days for the Isles.
"Saint John has had our number recently, but they've all been really good hockey games," Hulton said.
The Islanders play at Moncton Saturday at 4 p.m. and host Halifax Sunday at 3 p.m.
Defenceman Dexter Weber remains out of the Islanders lineup with an upper-body injury for this weekend.
By the numbers
22 – Games played this season by Kameron Kielly
5 – Goals
12 – Assists
17 – Points