Originally created 12/30/98

Bad news for Wiebe

Dan Wiebe got a quadruple shot in time for the new year, but it wasn't the kind that raises the spirits.

Rather, the Lynx coach must feel like drowning his sorrows. Wiebe learned late Monday and on Tuesday that all-stars Jaroslav Obsut and Jonas Soling were called up to the American Hockey League, that captain Alex LaPorte will miss the next three to five weeks with a fractured bone in his left foot, and that goaltender Joaquin Gage will likely not be returning to Augusta this season.

The timing of the news couldn't have been worse, with the Lynx (18-11-2) about to embark on another tough schedule stretch. They play six games in 10 nights, beginning Thursday night, when they play host to the Florida Everblades.

The 20-year-old Soling, who leads the ECHL in scoring among rookies with 22 goals and 35 points, was promoted to Syracuse, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. The 22-year-old Obsut, who was in the midst of a breakout season and was clearly emerging as the top two-way blueliner in the league, was sent to Worcester, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. His plus-17 rating leads the league and his 28 points ranks third in the league among defenseman -- numbers which led to his first All-Star nod as a professional when the ECHL announced its all-star rosters last week.

Both players' status for the ECHL All Star Game, Jan. 13 in Biloxi, Miss., is up in the air.

LaPorte, Augusta's veteran defenseman, took a slapshot off his left instep in the first period of Sunday's win over Miami. X-rays revealed the fracture on Monday, and the 23-year-old was fitted for a soft cast. Doctors initially said he would be out for at least five weeks, but LaPorte said Tuesday he is hopeful he can return by mid January.

"It's frustrating because I felt I was starting to play better the last couple of weeks and was starting to turn my game around," said LaPorte, one of the team's key stay-at-home defensemen who had nine assists in 30 games before the injury. "The cast has helped a lot and it feels much better now than it did on Sunday night, so I'm hoping I can come back soon."

Since the Lynx are affiliated with the Canucks and New Jersey Devils, Obsut is on a 25-game loan agreement to Worcester. Earlier this season, Obsut was loaned to Manitoba of the International Hockey League but was returned to Augusta after just three games. There's a chance that could happen again this time, and that the Slovakian could return sometime next week.

Soling, who leaves today and joins his new team in time for tonight's road game in Hershey, Pa. could also return, but Wiebe was not sure as to the star's future.

With the two losses on defense, Wiebe will move Sam Ftorek, who has split time at forward and defense this season, to a full-time backline assignment, and will likely move seldom-used winger Richard Irwin into a defensive role, as well.

Wiebe also learned on Monday that Gage, the 26-year-old netminder who was called up to Portland of the AHL on loan in October, has taken over as the Pirates' No. 1 goalie. Gage is among the AHL leaders with a 2.41 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

Two weeks ago, Gage was offered an AHL contract by Portland, an affiliate of the Washington Capitals, but has been holding out for an NHL contract offer. With the way he has been playing, chances are now he will get an NHL pact, from either the Capitals or one of several other NHL teams who are reportedly interested in his services.

Rob Mueller covers hockey for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.


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