Wentworth battles back from bad breaks

We don’t usually subscribe to a bunch of voodoo mumbo-jumbo when it comes to hockey players.

But recent evidence suggests that Blair Wentworth may in fact be working under some sort of curse.

Consider the facts.

The Calgary native took 51 games to score his first goal in 2008-09, and suffered a season-ending knee injury two shifts later, colliding with Vancouver’s Craig Cunningham in the neutral zone.

He took 40 games to net his first goal last year, scoring against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. And what happens?

Sewer ball.

While playing the soccer-hybrid game in the bowels of Prospera Centre prior to a Feb. 6 game versus Kelowna, the knee goes again, relegating him to the press-box for the remainder of the regular season.

At this point, the kid couldn’t be blamed for seeking psychic services or performing some sort of ritual to ward off evil spirits.

“I think this is the year the curse is broken,” Wentworth said on Wednesday. “I feel strong and I feel my game has picked up a little bit. Hopefully that leads to a good year.”

Wentworth isn’t much for superstition. He doesn’t believe in the Sports Illustrated cover curse.

He doesn’t subscribe to the theory that those appearing on the cover of the EA Sports Madden Football series suffer poor performance or crippling injuries the next season. What’s happened to him lately is all just bad luck.

“It is what you make it,” Wentworth said. “It sucks getting hurt after you score in both years, but you’ve got to keep pushing on. I don’t think it’s going to happen three years in a row.”

Hopefully not.

But what happens next time Wentworth gets the puck in the slot with a wide open net? Perhaps a little inner voice will scream at him to ‘Shoot wide! Shoot wide!’

“Not at all,” he laughed. “You’ve got to keep going for it, work through it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Wentworth spent the entire summer doing his best to make sure his left knee won’t be a problem.

Chilliwack team doctor David Wickham did a scope and provided him with a number of exercises to strengthen the knee. As added insurance, he’ll be playing with a brace this season.

“There was some instability in that knee and it’s been a thing that’s popped up since I was younger,” Wentworth said. “The exercises will help strengthen the muscles around the knee, and the fabric brace will keep things pretty tight. Hopefully that allows me to focus on my game instead of worrying about will happen if I get hit.”

Doing what they do, athletes have to be able to push those nagging doubts to the side. Wentworth undoubtedly has worries about whether the knee is good to go. But he knows he can’t play scared.

“When I came back last year for two playoff games, it was in my head a little bit, wondering what I could do,” he admitted. “You can’t play with that little voice in your head. You’ve got to be confident that the work you’ve done will let you do what you have to do.”

If Wentworth needs any extra motivation, he needs only to look over his shoulder at the handful of youngsters aiming to take his roster spot.

Two years ago, he was the young gun forcing the old guard out of the lineup. At 18 years old, his birth certificate starts to go from asset to detriment, unless he can do something that kids like Zane Jones, Brandon Magee and Tanner Labbe can’t do.

“There’s always guys after your spot, and when you’re a young guy you have the advantage of upside,” Wentworth noted. “But whoever you are, you’ve got to work hard to show what you bring to the table. What value do you bring and how can you help the team in the long run?”

The Bruins host Kelowna tonight (7:30 p.m.) at Prospera Centre.

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