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Although the NHL lockout is finally over, things aren't all rosy for the Habs as their AHL affiliate in Hamilton earned just three of eight points while setting some records they'd like to forget. Things were a bit better in Wheeling as the Nailers picked up a pair of victories in their four contests. Even though the Bulldogs are dead last in the AHL, things are looking up for them, I'll explain why in my Final Thought.
The Dog Pound
The Bulldogs celebrated the New Year in a unique fashion. A 6-0 blowout in Toronto set a pair of franchise records - most consecutive games without scoring a goal (3) and longest time between goals (200:29).
News and Notes:
- Brendon Nash, who scored Hamilton's last goal of 2012 (before the goalless drought began), was dealt to San Antonio in exchange for defenceman Jason DeSantis. The team hopes that the 5'11 blueliner can rebound to his form of 2011-12 where he picked up 43 points with St. John's.
- Early Sunday, the team recalled former Atlanta first rounder Daultan Leveille, likely in anticipation of players being recalled to Montreal for training camp this week.
- Lines from the most recent game:
Blunden - Holland - Gallagher
Quailer - Bournival - Dumont
Lefebvre - Chaput - Leblanc
Hagel - Fortier - Stortini
Tinordi - DeSantis
St. Denis - Commodore
Beaulieu - Ellis
Cedrick Desjardins is in desperate need of a win. His last victory came nine starts ago back on December 11th.
SHOOTOUT - SKATERS
SHOOTOUT - GOALIES
Assists: Beaulieu/Dumont/Gallagher (10)
Points: Dumont/Gallagher (20)
+/-: Joonas Nattinen (+6)
PIMS: Zack Stortini (126)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (111)
January 8: Toronto vs Hamilton
January 11: Hamilton vs Rochester
The Farm's Farm
Wheeling split a pair of games this past week as they beat Trenton in a pair of games but lost to Elmira and Reading.
As the Habs/Bulldogs have players affiliated with three different teams at the moment, the table below now covers all of those players, not just the ones with Wheeling.
January 11: Reading vs Wheeling
January 12: Reading vs Wheeling
January 13: South Carolina vs Wheeling
If you could name one AHL team who is most happy with the end to the lockout, it's the Hamilton Bulldogs. When you look at the current lineup from earlier on in this article, it's certainly a possibility that when NHL play resumes, it could be the same team suiting up, save for maybe one or two changes. The Habs are healthy and their depth is decent; there may be all of one opening up front to fight for while there will be eight defencemen signed when P.K. Subban inks his new deal. Cedrick Desjardins, Aaron Palushaj, and Frederic St. Denis will all have to go through the waiver process to remain with the team having signed AHL-only deals back in September but given their performances so far this season, they all should clear.
Meanwhile, most teams around the American Hockey League are preparing to lose several players, most of them key contributors (there are a few NHL 4th liners kicking around on the 4th lines of AHL squads). At least half of the top-20 scorers in the league are likely on their way out the door while several of the top defencemen and goalies will also be rejoining their NHL teams. Those teams are going to be a lot more negatively affected than the Bulldogs.
What does this mean for Hamilton, who currently sit dead last in the AHL? For the first time this year, this very young team will be facing competition that's more at their level. Brendan Gallagher won't be getting checked by soon-to-be NHL'ers on an almost nightly basis and life for the defence will be a lot easier as well. Not only will this really aid their development, but it should also result in a few more victories as the season goes along. Will that be enough to get them into the playoffs? It's tough to say but I'm a lot more confident about their second half of the season now that the lockout is finally over.
If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com.