With a pair of games against a struggling Manitoba Moose squad, Laval had a chance to potentially gain some ground in their push for a playoff spot but they only managed to come out of it with a split.
The Week That Was
Jan. 18: Rocket 3, Moose 0 – Laval was well-rested for this one and it showed as they were all over Manitoba. Cayden Primeau had one of the easier shutouts that he’s going to get, facing just 17 shots while Charles Hudon scored again and is now tied for ninth in the league in goals. Matthew Peca picked up an assist in his first game back after being sent down by Montreal.
Jan. 19: Moose 5, Rocket 1 – The rematch didn’t go quite so well. Mikhail Berdin was at the top of his game for Manitoba. Keith Kinkaid was not. It was 4-0 before the midway mark of the game and that was pretty much it. Josh Brook picked up his first goal in nearly two months to snap Berdin’s shutout.
Goals: Charles Hudon (19)
Assists: Jake Evans (20)
Points: Barber/Evans (28)
+/-: Juulsen/McEneny (+5)
PIMS: Otto Leskinen (47)
Shots: Charles Hudon (112)
News And Notes
– With Christian Folin now on the roster, the veteran rule is now having an impact on Laval’s lineup composition. It forced Yannick Veilleux to be scratched for both games despite having eight points in nine games since being signed.
– While Dale Weise was technically sent down, he’s not expected to play this week. If he did, that would mean another veteran comes out.
– Joe Cox and Ralph Cuddemi are both dealing with injuries, the nature of which have not yet been disclosed.
– Despite spending a lot more time in a top-six role in the first half of the season this season compared to last year, Jake Evans’ numbers aren’t exactly better. Through 42 games last year, he had 26 points (10-16-26). In 42 games this season, he’s at 28 (8-20-28).
Last Game’s Lines:
Vejdemo – Evans – Hudon
Peca – Varone – Barber
Alain – Dauphin – Jevpalovs
Pezzetta – Lynch
Olofsson – Ouellet
Leskinen – McEneny
Alzner – Folin
The Week Ahead
Jan. 22: vs Syracuse – If it seems like you’ve been seeing the Crunch getting mentioned a lot in recent columns, you’re onto something. This will be the third matchup between the two sides in less than three weeks and with Syracuse just two points behind Laval in the North Division standings, it’s a crucial matchup for both sides.
Jan. 24: at Rochester – The Americans have really struggled as of late having lost seven straight games and as a result, they’re only four points ahead of Laval now while holding down the third seed. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Buffalo sent three players back for their bye week (Rasmus Asplund, Scott Wilson, and Lawrence Pilut) while the only one Montreal sent down (Weise) isn’t even reporting.
Jan. 25: at Binghamton – This is the first of four matchups between the two teams this season and the Devils currently hold down last place in the North. Like Rochester, their parent team (New Jersey) sent down three players for their bye week, including Cory Schneider who has allowed just five goals over his last four starts after allowing 18 in his first four games with them.
It was bad enough that Josh Brook had to sit twice two weeks ago but he was actually slated to be scratched against Manitoba as well had it not been for Karl Alzner and Christian Folin not being 100%. Instead, Montreal’s top defensive prospect on that team was forced to take a regular shift as a fourth line winger. Seriously. If you’re trying to develop prospects – particularly good ones as Brook has the potential to be – sitting him (or playing him at a new position) isn’t something that should be considered as a viable strategy.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix to this (at least for this week). The Habs have plenty of cap room and roster space to work with so why not recall one of Alzner or Folin? It would free up a spot for Brook to actually play defence and as an added bonus, it would temporarily alleviate the veteran issue which would allow Veilleux to go back in as he has done nothing to deserve sitting.
Let’s say it’s Alzner that they recall in this scenario. Yes, he accrues some days towards needing to be put on waivers but it’s not like he’s a risk of being claimed even if he was to somehow reach 30 days between now and the end of the season. That’s not really an issue. And yes, it would cost Alzner some money (there’s no escrow in the minors) but if you were to ask him if he’d rather play three-in-four with travel in the AHL or have the week off to be with his family, he’s going to take the latter. Give the veteran a little reward and family time while giving one of your better prospects some playing time at his regular position (and perhaps give them a scoring boost as well). It’s a win-win proposition. Here’s hoping the Habs figure it out and make it happen.