The Laval Rocket are back in action on Saturday and Sunday after a full week off, facing first the Springfield Thunderbirds and then the Hartford Wolf Pack: two teams that are bringing up the rear in the Atlantic Division standings.
When we last left our band of heroes...
The Rocket’s last game was one week ago when they swept the Syracuse Crunch in back-to-back games. It was their first winning streak since they started the season with three consecutive victories. Since that season-opening run, they have gone 4-4-2; good enough for second place in the North Division behind the Toronto Marlies.
Matt Taormina leads the league in points by a defenceman, continuing the hot streak that he’s been on since last season.
Chris Terry has been practising with the team all week, so he should be back in action, which would be great news for the team, as he is crucial to the team’s power play. He has put up seven primary points (three goals, four primary assists) with the man advantage; contributing on 27% of all of the team’s power-play goals.
To say that Chris Terry returning is a benefit to the Rocket would be a bit of an understatement. pic.twitter.com/rR5kWJDsxv— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) November 10, 2017
Also back will be Michael McCarron, who was returned from the Montreal Canadiens. He will reportedly be centring the second line for the Rocket.
Taking McCarron’s place in Montreal was Rocket team captain Byron Froese, who became the first captain of the Habs farm team since Gabriel Dumont in February 2015 to play a game in the NHL. His waiver eligibility clock is ticking, so it could be a matter of time before he returns to the Rocket, but it probably won’t be this weekend.
Charlie Lindgren also remains with the Canadiens while Carey Price works through an unspecified injury.
This opened the door for Michael McNiven to get the AHL call-up. He should play his first AHL game this weekend, especially with the sudden recall of Zachary Fucale to the Canadiens, leaving McNiven to his own devices, along with Etienne Marcoux, who was signed to a PTO to act as backup. Goaltending coach Marco Marciano knows the player back from his Blainville-Boisbriand Armada days.
Le Rocket de Laval a annoncé que le gardien Étienne Marcoux (Indy – ECHL) a signé un contrat d’essai professionnel avec l'équipe.— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) November 10, 2017
Rocket announced that goaltender Étienne Marcoux (Indy – ECHL) was signed to a professional tryout contract. pic.twitter.com/zCj6dd1DVN
Also missing in action are Markus Eisenschmid, Noah Juulsen, and Jeremiah Addison due to various injuries. The former two should be back sometime at the beginning of December, but the latter is still facing a long rehabilitation from shoulder surgery, and might only be available towards the final throes of the regular season.
The Rocket should be expecting Nikita Scherbak and David Schlemko to pass by, at the very least, as they, too, slowly return from injury, but probably not for a few days.
Obviously with all these injuries and call-ups, the Rocket had to dip into the organizational depth to pick the ECHL Brampton Beast dry, as currently there are no more contracted players assigned to the Beast. Jordan Boucher, Yannick Veilleux, Thomas Ebbing, and McNiven are all in the AHL.
Rookies Simon Bourque and Antoine Waked ended up being scratched for both games last week.
The lines for Saturday’s game should be the following:
- Carr - Holland - Terry
- Audette- McCarron - Baun
- Deslauriers - Petti - Gregoire
- Veilleux - Ebbing - Waked
La formation probable du @RocketLaval: Carr-Holland-Terry, Audette-McCarron-Baun, Deslauriers-Petti-Grégoire, Veilleux-Ebbing-Waked.— Raphaël Doucet (@raphdoucet) November 11, 2017
En défense: Taormina-Lernout, Parisi-Jerabek, Gélinas-Leblanc.
Gardien: McNiven @919sports
Know Thy Enemy
Game 1: Saturday, November 11 @ the Springfield Thunderbirds
The Springfield Thunderbirds are the worst team in the AHL, and have lost three games in a row, and they will be up against even more adversity as one of their best players, Dryden Hunt, was recalled to the Florida Panthers. However there are a few things that the Rocket will have to be aware of.
Springfield has allowed the first goal 12 out of 14 times. Laval will want to take advantage of that fact, because the two times that Springfield scored first, they won.
Despite being the worst team, Anthony Graco leads the AHL in shots on goal with 53 and is on a five-game goal-scoring streak.
The team has taken the second-most penalties in the AHL, averaging a shade over 20 minutes per game. What could hint at a penalty-filled affair is that their opponents have taken the fourth-most penalties of any team in the AHL, and we know that the Rocket don’t need a second invitation to visit the penalty box. Springfield actually has the ninth-best home power play in the league, so the Rocket would be best served to remain disciplined if they want to take away the Thunderbirds’ only advantage.
Last season the St. John’s IceCaps played the Thunderbirds four times, and lost the season series 1-2-1, earning only 37.5% of the available points against this weak team, so the Rocket should not take this team lightly.
Game 2: Sunday, November 12 @ the Hartford Wolf Pack
The Hartford Wolf Pack, with their 5-7-0 record, are probably victims of playing in a very tough division with the powerhouse Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Charlotte Checkers, and Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They have played the majority of their games within their own division, going 4-6-0, with two of their wins coming against Springfield, and another two against Lehigh Valley.
But this team has also played three straight weekends of three games in three nights, which is an incredibly gruelling schedule. It should not be a surprise that their record has suffered.
Cole Schneider and Joe Whitney are the top scorers for the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate, but the team has several rookies to look out for, including Filip Chytil who has nine points in eight games and Vinni Lettieri who is second in the league with four power-play goals.
The Wolf Pack have only won three of their last eight games, so will be trying to get back on track against the Rocket on Sunday. Both teams will be played their second game in as many nights.
Last season the St. John’s IceCaps played the Wolf Pack four times, and had a winning record of 2-1-1, earning 62.5% of the available points.