The road has not been kind to Laval this season and that trend continued as they lost two of three to reach the All-Star break on a low note.
The Week That Was
Jan. 21: Rocket 4, Thunderbirds 3 (OT) – Michael McNiven was peppered in this one as the 41 shots he faced were the most this season (and matched his busiest night from last year as well) but he was up to the task. Byron Froese gave Laval the lead early in the third but Springfield tied it late to send it to overtime. The Rocket were the more aggressive team in the extra frame and it eventually paid off as Xavier Ouellet tallied his second of the season with just 44 seconds remaining.
Jan. 25: Phantoms 3, Rocket 2 – Charlie Lindgren returned (again) but special teams proved to be the difference. Lehigh Valley went 2/3 with the man advantage, the second of which stood up as the game-winner just past the midway point of the third. Froese scored late to make it close but they couldn’t get over the hump despite facing an ECHL goaltender.
Jan. 26: Bears 4, Rocket 2 – Once again, a poor performance from the penalty kill was costly as Hershey picked up a pair of goals with the man advantage which had Laval down early. David Schlemko picked up his first goal of the season while Alex Kile scored his first as a member of the Rocket in the losing effort.
Goals: Byron Froese (14)
Assists: Alex Belzile (25)
Points: Alex Belzile (35)
+/-: Brett Lernout (+7)
PIMS: Alex Belzile (48)
Shots: Alex Belzile (109)
News And Notes
– There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Noah Juulsen lately. The update from the team continues to be that there’s no update on how long he’ll be out but the fact they’ve been saying this for several weeks now is enough to infer that he’s going to be out for the long haul, regardless of what the upper-body injury happens to be.
– An update on Michael McCarron’s upper-body injury is expected soon. Meanwhile, Jake Evans missed all three games this past week but it’s expected that he’ll be back soon. Antoine Waked missed Saturday’s game due to an upper-body issue and could miss several weeks.
– Karl Alzner was sent down by the Habs even though there wasn’t a team announcement. However, he didn’t join the Rocket and is taking the bye week like he would have had he still been up with Montreal. Laval sent Michal Moravcik down to ECHL Brampton on Sunday; he has played in just four AHL games over the last two months (and has been healthy that whole stretch).
– Michael McNiven’s strong showing against Springfield extended his streak of games with at least a .925 SV% to six straight. That ultimately was snapped against Hershey on Saturday but that’s still his best run of games at the professional level.
Last Game’s Lines:
Audette – Froese – Belzile
Kile – Vejdemo – Jevpalovs
Shinkaruk – Martineau – Grenier
Pezzetta – Verbeek – Alain
Ouellet – Fleury
Schlemko – Lernout
Sklenicka – Lamarche
The Week Ahead
Jan. 27/28: AHL All-Star Classic – Alex Belzile is Laval’s lone representative for this event, something I don’t think anybody would have predicted at the start of the season. He has certainly earned the honour though as he’s currently in the top-40 in AHL scoring.
Feb. 1/2: at Toronto – The Marlies are on a nice run as of late as they now finally have a goaltender in Michael Hutchinson. Toronto holds down the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division, five points ahead of Laval. Needless to say, this is a huge pair of games.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Marc Bergevin has been his willingness to make trades that are solely for AHL purposes. Each season, it seemed as if there was a trade or two that was done just to bring in fresh blood for the minors, to give a struggling player a fresh start and bring someone else in that could benefit from one. I know not everyone appreciates those types of moves but the risk is so minor that I’ve always believed it’s worth doing.
There hasn’t been one of those so far this season. The closest one was the acquisition of Brett Kulak but it’s clear that they had an intention to get him to Montreal at some point and that wound up being the case. Considering the injury situation and the general ineffectiveness of several players, it’s about time for one of those minor leaguer for minor leaguer swaps. When guys on AHL contracts and tryouts are playing ahead of players on NHL deals with regularity, the player on the NHL deal should be feeling uneasy (I’m looking at you, Hunter Shinkaruk). A small swap to send a message that their spots are not automatically guaranteed might help the cause and perhaps bring in a player that can be more of a contributor. It’s largely an irrelevant move so for some, the question may be why do it? For me, the question is why not?