By Mike Mastovich
For The Tribune-Democrat
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Codey Burki can relate to the ankle injuries that nagged Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Talbot this season.
Like the trio of Pens, Burki has sat out weeks at a time waiting for his foot to heal.
The wait ends on Friday as the Johnstown Chiefs center returns for a 7 p.m. game against the first-place Cincinnati Cyclones at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“I haven’t played hockey in six to seven weeks,” said Burki, whose last game was Feb. 3 against Elmira. “It was a sprained ankle and sometimes sprained ankles can last a really long time, even longer than my injury lasted. Guys have been out two months, three months. Mine feels pretty good now and I think I’m ready to go now. I can’t wait to play hockey.”
Burki has split this season between Johnstown (10 games) and Lake Erie (32 games) in the AHL.
The Colorado Avalanche – affiliate of both the Chiefs and Lake Erie Monsters – selected Burki in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
“Burki has speed and skill. He’s going to help us on the power play and on 5-on-5,” Chiefs coach Ian Herbers said. “He’s a natural centerman. Right now we don’t have any natural centermen at the position. He will help us on the power play and on the penalty kill.
“He’s been skating this week with Lake Erie and he’s been feeling good,” Herbers added.
Burki, 20, has a goal and four points with Johnstown. He scored two goals and nine points with Lake Erie. As his ankle healed, Burki began rehabilitation and working out on his own. Recently he skated during Monsters practices.
“I’ve had a few ice times with them, three,” he said.
Burki appreciates his role with the Chiefs. He receives ample ice time and gets work on specialty teams. As a young prospect in Lake Erie, his playing time was more limited.
“Obviously coming down from Lake Erie, I liked playing in Johnstown because I was getting a lot of ice time,” Burki said. “I got to play on the power play again which was nice. At Lake Erie, guys were older than me and more experienced than me. The ice time wasn’t always there. It was fun to be counted on and to play hockey again.”