ANCHORAGE — With winger Tommy Mele undergoing thumb surgery Wednesday to repair ligament damage, and center Nate Thompson and defenseman Sean Curry out with an undisclosed ailments, the ECHL-leading Alaska Aces continue to deal with a slew of injuries.
By unofficial count -- the league does not keep an official count -- 15 of the 30 players who have drawn a paycheck from the Aces this season have missed hockey games with injuries.
Currently unavailable are eight players: Mele, Thompson, captain Steve Ward (broken leg, surgery), winger Brandon Dubinsky (broken hand), Curry, wingers Tim Hall and Jordan Kremyr (upper-body injuries for both), and goaltender James Reid (lower-body).
Through Wednesday's home game against the Utah Grizzlies, those 15 players had missed a combined 137 games due to injuries.
And that's before the Aces have even reached the one-third mark (24 games) of the ECHL's 72-game regular season.
In the Aces' five previous seasons, the most players who have missed regular-season games with injuries were 17 in 2009-10. The most combined games missed by Aces due to injuries in any of those five regular seasons were 240 in 2008-09.
In those five seasons, the Aces averaged 14.4 players per season who missed games with injuries, and an average of 216.8 games missed per season due to injuries.
At this rate, the 2012-13 Aces are on pace to blow past both those averages -- the 15 players who have missed games already with injuries tops the average -- and past the totals for most players injured and most combined games missed in any of the previous five seasons.
Shuffling the deck
Ward, who suffered his broken right leg blocking a shot against Utah on Oct. 20 and subsequently underwent surgery to have a plate and screws inserted, said he skated for the first time since on Wednesday morning.
Ward said he skated lightly for 10 to 15 minutes and continues to do rehabilitation. He's likely to return in January.
Aces coach Rob Murray said Dubinsky, who suffered his broken hand blocking a shot against Las Vegas on Nov. 10, has begun skating again, but is not handling pucks at the moment.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.