The injury situation for Laval just continues to get worse and as a result, their tumble down the standings continues as they managed just one point in a pair of games last week.
The Week That Was
Dec. 17: IceHogs 3, Rocket 2 – Laval got off to a good start in this one with goals from Charles Hudon and Alexandre Alain in the opening frame while outshooting Rockford 16-3. However, they weren’t able to sustain that momentum and the IceHogs used a second period shorthanded goal to get back in it before tying it in the third. Keith Kinkaid did well in the shootout but no one from the Rocket could score which prevented them from getting the extra point.
Dec. 19: Comets 5, Rocket 3 – Despite a lineup that had more forwards on minor league deals than NHL ones, Laval made it interesting. They once again had (and blew) a two-goal lead in the first period and it was tied midway through the third after Michael McCarron tied it up. Then McCarron stopped thinking and went and got himself needlessly tossed for spearing and chased down a referee for good measure. Utica scored twice on the extended power play and that was the difference. It was the type of play that should get McCarron a lengthy stint in the press box for sheer stupidity alone but with no other healthy bodies, there isn’t much Joel Bouchard can do on the disciplinary front.
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Charles Hudon (12)
Assists: Jake Evans (13)
Points: Barber/Evans (18)
+/-: Noah Juulsen (+5)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (50)
Shots: Riley Barber (79)
News And Notes
– The good news for Alex Belzile is that he wasn’t dealing with a concussion. The bad news is that his upper-body injury was a shoulder injury that required surgery and a six-month recovery window which essentially ends his season unless Laval somehow makes the Calder Cup Finals.
– William Pelletier, a minor league signing early in free agency, made his season debut (so at least one player came off the injured list). The injury situation meant that he was deployed on the top line rather quickly. However, the lower-body injury that Charles Hudon was trying to play through was bad enough that he didn’t make the trip to Utica.
– A familiar face has rejoined the team as Yannick Veilleux signed a PTO deal. He spent time with Montreal’s affiliate in St. John’s as well as their first season in Laval.
– Michael McCarron appears to (somehow) have avoided a suspension for his spearing incident that was followed up by making contact with an official.
Last Game’s Lines:
Cox – Evans – Pelletier
Alain – McCarron – Waked
Veilleux – Lynch – Jevpalovs
Verbeek* – Pezzetta – Cuddemi
Ouellet – Brook
Leskinen – Lamarche
Olofsson – McEneny
* – Verbeek was supposed to play in Utica but whoever filled out the lineup card forgot to put his name on there. As a result, Laval was forced to play the game with just 17 skaters dressed.
The Week Ahead
Dec. 27/28: vs Toronto – The Marlies have slowed down a bit in recent weeks and are still transitioning to their new head coach with Greg Moore only officially taking over behind the bench within the last week. They still have a very deep forward group (especially compared to what Laval has been forced to put out due to all of the injuries and recalls) but they will be without one of their top blueliners as Rasmus Sandin is on loan to Sweden for the World Juniors (cutting into Mattias Norlinder’s minutes in the process). Laval is already five points behind Toronto and the Marlies have four games in hand. If they want to stay within striking distance, the Rocket will need to get some points here, weakened roster or not.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Alex Belzile. I thought he was worthy of getting a token look from the Habs late last season but they opted to wait until this season to give him the deal and in doing so, ensured he’d be waiver-exempt for all of 2019-20. It was the perfect scenario for him to get an NHL shot when injuries struck in Montreal. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out that way. Had he been healthy, it’s relatively safe to assume that he’d have had a chance with the Canadiens by now; I’d go as far as suggesting that he’d have been a regular for the past month or so due to the injuries. But instead, his season is already over and considering he’ll be 29 with no NHL experience, it’s far from a guarantee that he gets another NHL pact, especially with some of the prospects that will likely be under contract for next season taking up contract slots. It looked like everything was shaping up to be the perfect storm for Belzile to finally get his NHL opportunity. It’s too bad it didn’t work out in the end.