All things considered -- one forward who missed a game with injury, another who departed mid-game with an injury and a third who seemed a prospect for league suspension -- the Alaska Aces are actually in decent shape when it comes to depth at forward.
As the ECHL club prepares for Game 3 of its first-round, best-of-7 Kelly Cup playoff series with San Francisco -- the teams are tied 1-1 entering Thursday's match at the Cow Palace -- Monday brought mostly good news.
First-line winger Garry Nunn, who scored in a 5-1 win in Game 1 at Sullivan Arena but sat out a 1-0 loss in Game 2 with an upper-body injury, skated through a full practice Monday. And bruising winger Chris Clackson, whose hit knocked Bulls forward Tristan King from Game 2, will not be suspended, Aces coach Rob Murray said after talking to league officials.
Meanwhile, rookie winger Andy Taranto, who left Game 2 with a lower-body injury, did not practice Monday and will not make the road trip to San Francisco, where series games are scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
With Taranto out, winger Spencer Bennett, a scratch in Games 1 and 2, practiced on the second line with center Bobby Hughes and winger Alexandre Imbeault.
"Our lineup's strong and we've got guys here -- with either (Tommy) Mele or Bennett going into the lineup -- that we are confident in,'' Murray said.
Taranto said he re-aggravated an injury he suffered late this season as a senior at UAF and left Game 2 because he felt he might be a liability.
"I went for a hit and kind of fell wrong, or leaned wrong, and felt pain,'' Taranto said. "I didn't feel like I'd benefit the team at all. I want to make sure the guys who are healthy are the ones out there.''
While the Aces feel they retain ample firepower, the Bulls should be buoyed in Game 3 by the return of Peter Sivak, their leading scorer in the regular season, from a stint in the American Hockey League.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.