Laval faced off against a trio of divisional rivals last week. They managed to pick up three points along the way but a tough loss to Toronto knocked them out of a playoff spot.
The Week That Was
Feb. 5: Rocket 5, Comets 4 (OT) – Michael McNiven’s season debut was a back-and-forth affair with Utica coming back from four separate one-goal deficits before Xavier Ouellet potted the winner early in overtime. That was his fourth point of the game while Jesperi Kotkaniemi chipped in with three assists.
Feb. 8: Senators 3, Rocket 2 (OT) – Cayden Primeau has struggled against Belleville this season but he had a solid performance in this one. Laval mustered up just ten shots over the final two periods but still managed to get the game to overtime where Alex Formenton picked up the game-winner just past the halfway mark.
Feb. 9: Marlies 5, Rocket 2 – This was the must-win game of the three and it’s the one where Laval didn’t show up for. Some poor defensive play early on hung Keith Kinkaid out to dry and it was 3-0 barely halfway through the first period and the Rocket just couldn’t recover.
Goals: Charles Hudon (24)
Assists: Jake Evans (22)
Points: Jake Evans (34)
+/-: Noah Juulsen (+5)
PIMS: Otto Leskinen (55)
Shots: Charles Hudon (136)
News And Notes
– Following the victory over Utica, Xavier Ouellet and Jake Evans were recalled. They did get some help from the Habs shortly after that though when Ryan Poehling was sent back down.
– Lukas Vejdemo (undisclosed) and Joe Cox (lower-body) did not accompany the team on their road trip. However, Andrew Sturtz (the player they got in the Mike Reilly trade) did and it appears he is getting closer to making his Laval debut.
– Yannick Veilleux has signed a one-way deal for the rest of the season to stay in Laval. He had been weighing several offers from overseas but has decided to stick it out. Right now, there isn’t a veteran overage which has allowed him to get back in the lineup.
Last Game’s Lines:
Hudon – Kotkaniemi – Barber
Peca – Poehling – Lynch
Veilleux – Varone – Alain
Pezzetta – Dauphin – Jevpalovs
Olofsson – Fleury
Leskinen – McEneny
Alzner – Brook
The Week Ahead
Feb. 12: at Utica – Not a whole lot has changed since mentioning this matchup last week when the two sides faced off in Laval. The Comets are six points up on the Rocket for third place in the division so a regulation victory would get them at least in striking distance. They’ll likely have to face Micheal Ferland who is on LTIR conditioning from Vancouver.
Feb. 14: at Hartford – The Wolf Pack are a more defensive-minded team and have the fewest regulation losses in the conference. However, scoring can be tricky for them and they no longer have Igor Shesterkin who is up with the Rangers and making quite the first impression. Top prospect Vitali Kravtsov has been quiet since returning from Russia with nine points in 21 games.
Feb. 16: at Providence – The road trip comes to an end with a matchup against the Bruins who feature one of the deeper forward groups in the AHL led by rookies Jack Studnicka and Robert Lantosi plus veterans Paul Carey and Peter Cehlarik. Former Montreal prospect Josiah Didier recently signed a two-year contract extension with them.
I’m not a fan of carrying three goaltenders for an extended period of time but at this particular juncture, it might just be the right move. Cayden Primeau has been up and down lately while Keith Kinkaid has just struggled period. Meanwhile, Michael McNiven was lighting it up in the ECHL before being summoned to cover when Primeau was briefly up with the Canadiens last week. I’ve previously advocated for the end of the goalie rotation so perhaps it’s time to give McNiven a chance to run with it. His past history suggests that there will be plenty of inconsistency but let’s face it, that pretty much describes their goaltending for most of the season anyway. The Habs need to decide whether or not to tender McNiven a qualifying offer in June and this is an opportunity to help make that decision while potentially giving Laval a boost between the pipes. Go with the two youngsters (since most weeks there are a lot of back-to-backs) for a while and see if that can turn their fortunes around. There isn’t much more help coming from Montreal; if anything, their roster could be weakened by the trade deadline so the goaltending is going to have to carry them a lot more than it has as of late.