It’s a busy weekend for the Montreal Canadiens and both of their minor-league affiliates.
The Canadiens play back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, while the Laval Rocket play three games in three cities in three nights, as do the Brampton Beast. Each team is essentially in the busiest possible schedule for their respective leagues.
This made Friday night’s injuries suffered by multiple players that much more problematic for everyone.
First of all, the Montreal Canadiens lost defenceman Victor Mete and forward Max Pacioretty to injuries in their game against the Islanders. Both players returned to Montreal for further evaluation.
Meanwhile the Rocket lost forwards Daniel Audette and David Broll to first-period injuries in their game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Looks like Daniel Audette rolled his ankle last night, although it's hard to tell exactly what happened. Regardless he left the game after this and did not come back. #Rocket #Habs pic.twitter.com/gmjhxQ0yYs— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) March 3, 2018
Patrick Cullity boards David Broll, and then refuses to answer for it. Broll's restraint was remarkable, but he was injured on the play and will miss the next two games. #Rocket #Habs pic.twitter.com/6BzSKFm7vf— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) March 3, 2018
Making the whole situation harder is that all teams are currently on the road.
At least the Canadiens acted decisively when they reacted to Mete’s injury by immediately recalling newcomer defenceman Rinat Valiev to their ranks after the Rocket game. He did not get on the Rocket team bus as the team was about to head out to Syracuse for their Saturday game. He got on a flight to Boston instead to meet up with the rest of the Canadiens.
Meanwhile, the Brampton Beast would have been getting ready to go on their team bus to head to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they are playing Saturday night, when word came down that the Rocket would be needing reinforcements. So to link up any Beast players called up to the Rocket would be a bit of a logistical challenge.
The Rocket ended up signing defenceman Tyson Wilson and forward Jackson Leef to Professional Tryout contracts.
Tyson Wilson was to be one of the pillars on the defence for the Brampton Beast this season, but was injured in the first game and missed significant time. He returned not too long ago, and helped pull the Beast out of a losing skid, scoring seven points in 10 games and maintaining a strong +5 rating.
Jackson Leef is a feelgood story. A captain of his NCAA Division III team, Westfield State University, he is in rookie pro season, starting first in the SPHL with the Evansville Thunderbolts putting up 13 points in 16 games. He is currently on his second stint with the ECHL’s Brampton Beast as he’s essentially been an emergency call-up for the Beast as players came and went to AHL affiliates.
Both players will join the Rocket for Saturday’s game. As the Rocket only have 11 healthy forwards, it’s quite possible that Leef will make his AHL debut, unless head coach Sylvain Lefebvre chooses to go with an 11-forward, seven-defencemen formation, which means that fellow PTO Willie Corrin will finally play his first game with the Rocket, and that Wilson will play his first AHL game since the 2015-16 season when he played three games with the Manitoba Moose.
They become the sixth and seventh players to receive professional tryouts by the Rocket this season (including the Vallorani signing which proved to be illegal).
Injuries are starting to pile up for the Rocket now, with Broll and Audette joining Yannick Veilleux, Jeremiah Addison, and Matt Taormina on the sidelines.
Meanwhile the Beast are now suddenly two players short, and will have to scramble to find players to take their place for their road game on Saturday night in Michigan.
Injuries happen frequently in pro hockey, but Friday’s accumulated events have caused a major shockwave throughout all three teams, making their already tough schedules and precarious divisional rankings even more stressed.