Phil Varone may not have to wait too long before returning to the Laval Rocket lineup, and the timing couldn’t be better.
“I haven’t had a big injury like this since Junior,” Varone said following Laval Rocket practice this week. The Vaughan, Ontario native has missed the last two months of the Rocket’s season with an injury to his right wrist. He’s been skating with the team since late December.
But it seems he may be ready to return just in time for the Rocket’s stretch of three games over three nights, starting Friday against the Syracuse Crunch.
“It’s huge,” teammate Alexandre Alain said about the prospect of having Varone back in the lineup. “It’s going to be good for the team to have him on the ice. He’s a really good teammate. Even if he was injured, after games he was talking to me saying ‘you could do that better.’ He’s really nice and I think he’s really happy to come back.”
Phil Varone devrait jouer vendredi à Syracuse. On le retrouve au centre d’un trio régulier avec Yannick Veilleux et Riley Barber.— Anthony Marcotte (@anthonymarcotte) January 8, 2020
Pour l’instant, Joe Cox demeure à droit de Jake Evans et Charles Hudon. Il faudra faire de la place sur l’échiquier à Laurent Dauphin vendredi.
Varone had four assists in 11 games played, and scored in the shootout in his last full game prior to being injured on November 30 against the Hartford Wolf Pack during a faceoff.
“Just a weird situation where the guy tried to use his skate to kind of beat me on the draw,” Varone explained. “I had his number that night. My stick got caught on his skate and I was using so much force. When I was trying to push and pull, it just kind of stopped all momentum. I just felt my wrist pop. I thought it was just the bone dislocating. And then, obviously, the MRI tells you different.”
Varone’s return to the lineup would be a welcome inclusion for the team, which finds itself in fifth place in the American Hockey League’s North Division but just five points from the division-leading Rochester Americans.
“Our division is so tough,” he said, “and every game means something. It’s huge. I think we have a lot of talent, but a lot of our talent has been out of the lineup. So guys, probably with a little lesser roles are going to be given an opportunity to take advantage of them, which is big. You need that throughout the season.
“I need to be [at] my best, I can’t be 50 percent,” Varone said.
Christian Folin’s friendship with Oskar Lindblom
One player the Rocket can count on for this weekend is defenceman Christian Folin, who was sent down from the Habs Monday after clearing waivers.
The Swedish rearguard has played seven games with the Montreal Canadiens’ minor-league affiliate this season. Despite the fact that his trek from downtown Montreal might be a little longer, he doesn’t mind the assignment to the Laval Rocket.
“I’m excited to be back. I liked when I was down here for my conditioning,” Folin said. “I like the group of guys. I like the coaching staff. I liked the environment. We get taken care of really well. And I think [Place Bell] is a great place to play in front of these [fans]. I think I only had two home games, but the place was was very loud.”
Folin will use this weekend to reconnect with fellow Swede and former teammate Oskar Lindblom when the Rocket visit Lehigh Valley. Lindblom and Folin were both teammates in Philadelphia during the 2018-19 season.
Lindblom scored 11 goals in 30 games for the Philadelphia Flyers this season before being diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“Honestly, it was it was a tough day,” Folin said when he learned of his countryman’s diagnosis. “He just sent me a quick text and we’ve talked back and forth a little bit. He started his therapy after Christmas. He had the chemo coming into his shoulder and he sent me a snapshot. So he’s in a good mood.”
“He’s a tough guy,” Folin continued. “He’s going to get through it. He’s going to get really good help from the Flyers organization too. And even the whole hockey community is coming in behind him.”