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Corbin healed up and ready to play again

by Lindsay Kramer /
J.D. Corbin's body needed a rest, so he gave it a long one. He hopes the time off pays off.

Corbin, a left wing, signed a free-agent deal with the Bakersfield Condors. He returns to the sport after taking last season off to recover from a hellacious run of injuries during the last five seasons.

As a sophomore at the University of Denver in 2004-05, he suffered a snapped collarbone right before the Frozen Four. In his senior season, he damaged his right ankle when he slid into the boards.

At the end of his rookie professional season in 2007-08, he absorbed a hit in the corner that ripped his right shoulder out of its socket. A season later, playing for Lake Erie of the AHL, a shot shattered the middle finger of his right hand.

Medically, Corbin could have played last season. But given all those omens, who wouldn't think about taking a step back?

"It was kind of to a point where I was tired of the injuries," he said. "Mentally and physically, I was shot. It was a battle doing the rehab. It was a lot to deal with. I didn't want to deal with it anymore."

Corbin spent most of his down time at his home in Littleton, Colo. He walked the line between staying in shape and hanging them up, working out at the University of Denver while pondering retirement.

"That's something I was toying around with, whether I wanted to play again," he said. "During the season, watching hockey on TV and being away from the game, I realized I wasn't ready (to quit). I decided I walked away for the wrong reasons."

Corbin had a connection for a comeback. One of his teammates at Denver was Matt Laatsch, who now works as a scout for Anaheim. Anaheim was affiliated with the Condors last season, and Laatsch told Corbin he should check with Bakersfield coach Marty Raymond.

The contact was worth a contract. Now Corbin has to hope his quota of bad fortune has been filled for a while.

"That's the big thing for me," he said. "It'd be nice to have a year where you don't have too many injuries. My body feels great. I hope it's all behind me. I'm praying for some luck."

'Bionic' McEwan happy to be back -- While some may look at winger James McEwan's left arm and see a little deformation, McEwan himself views it as a unique brand of social networking.

"It definitely is a conversation starter," he said.

The intrigue begins on the back of his hand, under his index finger. The tendon there bulges like a braid -- because that's where doctors recently had to thread in a replacement tendon to help tie together a couple that were ripped apart.

"I'm like bionic now," McEwan said.

Another scar zips from his wrist to the middle of his index finger. That's where a skate caught him a couple seasons ago, likely a precursor of his tendon troubles last season. On the underside of the limb there are several vertical marks, a souvenir of where the doctors pulled out the tendon to reinforce the damaged ones on the back of his hand.

"I guess you could tell something's up there," McEwan said of the area.

And yet, McEwan is back in Ontario for more. And why wouldn't he be? The marks are mere badges, indications of why the agitator is so popular among Reign fans.

McEwan, 23, has signed with the Reign after an abbreviated 2009-10 in which he still managed to compile 80 penalty minutes in 27 games. The last of those minutes, however, signaled the end of McEwan's season.

They came courtesy of a fight with Stockton's Garet Hunt in February. McEwan blew up his left thumb in the altercation, requiring surgery. When he was unable to regain strength in the hand, it was determined that his tendons still were ailing from the skate incident, which happened in junior hockey. Hunt played a big role in that one as well -- he accidentally stepped on the wrist after a bout.

That led to the tendon-switcheroo surgery in June, a procedure that bolstered McEwan's wrist and his resolve to keep playing his role.

"During the season, watching hockey on TV and being away from the game, I realized I wasn't ready (to quit). I decided I walked away for the wrong reasons." -- J.D. Corbin

"I play that hard-nosed game," he said. "I protect my guys. If I couldn't do that, I'd go crazy. They (Ontario fans) didn't get to see a whole lot of me last year. I'm really happy that I get to go back there and have that support. I'm pretty pumped."

Machesney picked ECHL for the playing time -- Given the choice between moving down a league and not playing at all, veteran goalie Daren Machesney saw it as no choice at all.

Machesney has spent enough time as a spectator to last him a career. If an ECHL team thinks enough of him to put him in net on a regular basis, Machesney isn't asking questions. That's why he's signed with Victoria, an offer whose most appealing provision was the potential for minutes.

"There wasn't a whole lot of offers. I took what I could get," the 23-year-old said. ''I'm taking a step backward, going into the (ECHL). I have to play. I have to get my game back to where it was a couple of years ago."

That span can seem like a lifetime away. At times the past few seasons, Machesney has been the equivalent of an active healthy scratch.

As a rookie in 2006-07, he played 15 games in South Carolina and 10 in AHL Hershey. The next season he got 38 in Hershey, turning in a 22-10-2 mark, 2.55 goals-against and a .916 save percentage.

But in 2008-09 the Bears brought in Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth to lead a Calder Cup charge, and Machesney played just 36 games. That seemed like a marathon last season, however, when playing behind Cory Schneider in Manitoba was worth just 21 games -- and he put up sub-par numbers: a 3.34 GAA and .894 save percentage.

The chance to actually play, even at the ECHL, was something Machesney couldn't pass up.

"You get older, you're not playing, you don't want to be sitting on the bench not playing," Machesney said. "When you're coming in, playing once every three months, your eyes and your brain don't function like they do if you are playing every night. The main thing (now) is playing time."
Chicago hoping for Express route to success -- Chicago's new ECHL franchise has chosen a nickname it hopes will put it on the track to success.

The team, which begins play next season, will be known as the Express. The name was picked as part of a combination of fan vote and team approval.

"We kept coming back to the train theme," said Wade Welsh, President of C & S Family Sports, which owns the franchise. "We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves that we want to use."

Until the Express unveils them, it will have to rely upon the goodwill of new ambassador/coach Steve Martinson to win over fans. Martinson, the former coach of Elmira, was hired as bench boss more than a year before the team plays its first game.

"First and foremost, he's an unbelievable recruiter. In the ECHL, it's important to have that," Welsh said. "He wishes we were playing this year, but he understands it's important to get a good season-ticket base before we drop the first puck."

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