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Pulock cleared to return to Brandon lineup on Friday

by Mike G. Morreale

Defenseman Ryan Pulock of the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings has been cleared to return to the lineup following a six-game absence due to a facial injury.

According to Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon, Pulock, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for players in the WHL, will join his teammates for Friday's home game against the Spokane Chiefs. Pulock was injured after taking a puck to the face in a Nov. 16 game against the Kootenay Ice, and has been wearing a full face shield in practice.

Despite missing some time, the 6-foot-0.5, 211-pound blueliner is fourth in scoring among WHL defensemen with 25 points, including nine goals, in 24 games. He also has a team-leading plus-14 rating.

While he is excited to be rejoining the team, Pulock admits some disappointment over not being invited to Hockey Canada's selection camp roster for the 2013 World Junior Championship. The 37 players invited to camp, including 12 defensemen, were named Monday.

"It's definitely disappointing,"???Pulock told Brandon's website. "I thought I had a pretty good start to the year to give myself an opportunity for at least a camp invite. But there's some positives to look at and I always have another chance next year."

The Wheat Kings have gone 0-5-0-1 in six games without their top defenseman in the lineup to fall out of playoff position in the WHL's Eastern Conference.

Pulock finished third among league defenders last season with 60 points, also finishing with an eye-popping plus-43 rating.

"He does everything well," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told "He's got the hardest shot I've seen in years. He's so smart. The thing that's even more impressive is I've seen him take seven or eight super hits -- body checks and hip checks -- laying guys into the boards. He's got all the tools to be a top pick."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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