Um, this is sorta good news for the Alaska Aces: Reigning Kelly Cup Most Valuable Player Scott Howes is headed back to the club in time for the ECHL Western Conference Finals.
OK, huge news.
Howes, the winger who has spent nearly all of the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, will meet the Aces in Las Vegas on Wednesday and should be in the lineup for Thursday's opener in the best-of-7 series. All that is according to Aces coach Rob Murray and the club.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but a year ago Howes dominated in the playoffs, racking 7-12--19 and +11 totals in 12 games. He killed his old club, Victoria, in the conference finals, then performed some amazing things against Kalamazoo in the Kelly Cup Finals, when a shoulder injury that plagued him all season, plus a woozy head, made his production even more impressive.
Howes had shoulder surgery last offseason, and started the season with the Aces before former Aces bench boss Brent Thompson summoned him to Bridgeport and gave him a one-year deal. Bridgeport was swept out of the first round of the playoffs, so Howes became available to the Aces, who had him on their playoff reserve list.
Just spoke with Howes on the phone, and he said he's eager to rejoin the club.
"I'm excited to see everybody, excited to go somewhere they're excited to see me,'' Howes said.
Murray said he isn't yet sure where Howes will be in the lineup. No doubt many of you remember he manned left wing on the top line with center Brian Swanson and right winger Wes Goldie during his breakout season a year ago. Dan Kissel has filled that slot superbly this season. Depending on the availability of Chris Bruton (lower-body injury), Howes could end up on the left side with center Chris Langkow on the third line. Wouldn't expect him to slot into the second line of Ryan Cruthers centering Nick Mazzolini and Garry Nunn because that line was so good in eliminating Stockton last week in the conference semifinals.
In any event, that's another scorer in the lineup, and a power-play guy too. Plus, Howes is popular in the dressing room -- he's a sweet kid -- so no problem there.
This is all good news, also, for 6-year-old Mac Swanson, Brian's son, who plays some fierce ball hockey games with Howes. Brian Swanson reports that he spend part of Monday mediating smack-talking texts between Mac and Howes.
Look for more on Howes in Wednesday's dead-trees edition of the ADN.