The Alaska Aces are transforming hockey vernacular -- their defensemen can now be referred to as black-and-blueliners.
In the space of two games last weekend, the club lost three defensemen to injuries, including captain Steve Ward, who suffered a broken right leg in Saturday's 1-0 win over Utah, underwent surgery Sunday and is likely out until January.
Also shelved are defenseman Kane Lafranchise, who missed Saturday's game after taking a hit to the head from Utah's Riley Armstrong in Friday's home-opening 5-2 loss, and Corey Syvret, who was slashed Saturday and suffered a broken right index finger.
Lafranchise, who has not practiced or played since, is listed as day-to-day. Syvret will miss this week's three-game series against visiting San Francisco, but could be ready to return for a five-game road trip after that. He skated at practice Tuesday, but did not handle pucks.
The Aces already were without blueliners Sean Curry and Todd Orlando, both of whom were injured in training camp. Aces head coach Rob Murray last week thought Curry, a veteran, might be able to make his season debut against Utah, but Curry re-aggravated a groin injury. He did not practice Tuesday.
"It's starting to be a little worrisome,'' Murray said after practice.
All those injuries make for troublesome math -- of the Aces' nine defensemen, only four are healthy. The survivors are Russ Sinkewich, Dustin Molle, and rookies William Wrenn and Chris Haltigin -- the latter two have a combined five games pro experience. Teams usually dress six defensemen for each game.
"We have four healthy bodies, and we are in search for a couple guys right now,'' Murray said.
Murray hopes to have reinforcements in time for Friday's series opener against San Francisco at Sullivan Arena.
Ward, in his third season with the Aces, was initially injured early in Saturday's game when he blocked a slap shot by Utah's Chris Donovan. Ward hobbled to the bench, but soon returned to the ice when the Aces went on a power play.
Before the power play started, Ward took a quick spin on the ice during a TV timeout.
"It seemed OK,'' he said by telephone Tuesday. "It was sore, but you don't figure your leg's broken. You figure it's a stinger.''
But when Ward pushed off with his right skate while trying to recover the puck following a face-off, he crumpled to the ice.
"Once I pushed off, it kind of gave out and I couldn't put any weight on it,'' Ward said. "When I pushed off, that's when it must have displaced. It could have been cracked from the shot (block).''
Sunday's surgery fitted a plate and seven screws in Ward's leg during a 75-minute procedure.
Ward said Donovan's shot hit him in a tiny unprotected area of his leg, just above the boot of his skate and just below the bottom of his shin pad -- "It couldn't have hit me in a more perfect spot,'' he said.
So, tough times in the Ward-Lafranchise household, which includes Ward's fiancee, Marla Wales.
"It's probably toughest on my fiancee because she has to deal with both of us,'' Ward said.
Early Tuesday afternoon, the injured blueliners were getting ready to watch a movie, "The Campaign.'' Ward said he's spending a lot of time on the couch, keeping his leg elevated on pillows.
About the only upside for Ward is that his injury occurred so early in the season, which should only be roughly halfway over when he returns.
"That's the silver lining,'' Ward said.
There is one other upside for the Aces. With veterans Ward and Curry out, Murray can play all four of his veteran forwards -- NHLers Brandon Dubinsky, Nate Thompson and Joey Crabb, and Matt Robinson -- in a game. ECHL teams are limited to four veterans in any game.
Also currently injured for the Aces are rookie winger Tim Hall, out with an upper-body injury, and goaltender Gerald Coleman, still rehabilitating from offseason hip surgery.
Last season, 15 different Aces missed a total of 177 games because of injury. In the last five seasons, the club has averaged 14.2 injured players per season, and an average of 216.8 games per season missed due to injuries.
"You just need guys to step up, play more ice time and play in new situations,'' Ward said. "It's like last year -- we got through it. We'll get through it again.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog  or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY