The month of February ended on a good note for Laval as the Rocket picked up a pair of victories in three games to remain within striking distance of a playoff spot.
The Week That Was
Feb. 26: Rocket 4, Senators 1 – Belleville has given Cayden Primeau fits this season but the rookie netminder came up with one of his strongest performances of the season against the conference-leading Senators. Nikita Jevpalovs’ return to the lineup was a productive one as he picked up a pair of goals while Charles Hudon scored in what was his final game before getting recalled on an emergency basis to Montreal.
Feb. 28: Americans 4, Rocket 2 – Special teams have been an issue for Laval as of late (mirroring their parent team, evidently) and that proved to be costly here. After allowing two goals in the first (including a power play marker), Jevpalovs scored early in the second. On the same play, Rochester’s Kevin Porter was ejected with a match penalty for an illegal check to the head. That sent Laval to a five-minute power play which they proceeded to do nothing with. Even though they tied it late in the frame, the Amerks picked up the winner with a little more than five minutes left in regulation.
Feb. 29: Rocket 5, Comets 2 – The power play came to life for Laval as they picked up a pair with the man advantage and they surprisingly chased Michael DiPietro early in the second period with four goals on just nine shots. That was more than enough for Michael McNiven who was sharp in goal despite making his first start in more than three weeks.
Goals: Charles Hudon (27)
Assists: Jake Evans (24)
Points: Jake Evans (38)
+/-: Noah Juulsen (+5)
PIMS: Otto Leskinen (57)
Shots: Charles Hudon (161)
News And Notes
– Another veteran was cleared out over the weekend as Keith Kinkaid was loaned to Charlotte. (This only affects his AHL rights, not his AHL ones). Laval still has Connor LaCouvee on an AHL deal if one of Cayden Primeau or Michael McNiven were to be recalled or injured. Matthew Peca was moved out at the beginning of the week in a trade with Ottawa.
– The AHL trade deadline came and went with no activity from Laval. A total of three trades were made, one of which was a double loan between Manitoba and Ontario.
– Jesse Ylonen’s deal is now official. Instead of signing a PTO to finish out the season, he signed a one-way AHL contract with the Rocket. We’ll see if he’s placed with fellow countryman Jesperi Kotkaniemi (who missed the last two games with the flu).
– Joe Cox and Otto Leskinen both returned to the lineup from their respective injuries which actually gives Laval a little bit of depth to work with for now.
Last Game’s Lines:
Veilleux – Poehling – Lynch
Lucchini – Dauphin – Jevpalovs
Alain – Vejdemo – Cox
Pezzetta – Luchuk – Waked
Olofsson – Brook
Leskinen – Lamarche
Culkin – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Mar. 5/6: at Cleveland – This is a nice opportunity for Laval to make up some ground in the standings as Cleveland has been depleted as a result of the many injuries in Columbus. Three of their top five scorers (including former Hab Stefan Matteau) are up with the Blue Jackets as is their starting goalie. Not surprising, the Monsters have struggled considerably as of late and with a tough week ahead after this one, these are two games that the Rocket need two points in.
When Yannick Veilleux was signed to a PTO deal back in December, it felt like Laval was just bringing in someone who had some familiarity with the city and a handful of players to help bridge the Rocket through some tough times on the injury front. They had a veteran slot open and knew what he could bring – or so we thought.
Instead of being a serviceable fourth liner, Veilleux has had a huge impact offensively. Through 23 games with the team, he has a more than respectable nine goals and five assists. Not bad for a player toiling in the ECHL. His goal total matches his career high set back with Chicago in 2014-15 where it took 64 games to reach that mark. No, a shooting percentage of 24.3 isn’t going to be sustainable but let’s give him credit where credit is due for being productive.
Veilleux has bounced around in a variety of different roles already, ranging from fourth line duty to top six minutes with power play time and that versatility has certainly come in handy with all of the injuries and recent roster turnover. In fact, I’d go as far as calling him the unsung hero for the team even if he has only been there for about a third of the season so far. With no issues coming with regard to the veteran rule (most have been traded or recalled), Veilleux could wind up being a key piece for the Rocket down the stretch.