The St. John’s IceCaps continue their ten game road trip on Monday, after a nine day break beforehand. So far December has been successful for the Montreal Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, as they have collected eight out of a possible 14 points, but roster challenges continue to make life difficult for the team.
The IceCaps will be missing many of their top players as Michael McCarron, Marc Barberio, and Chris Terry are currently with the Habs due to a rash of injuries affecting the NHL team.
In addition, Charles Hudon remains injured and he’s not expected to return to the IceCaps line-up any time soon, however Nikita Scherbak is expected to return to the roster after suffering a shoulder injury over a month ago.
A trio of players were added to the IceCaps roster on Christmas Day.
Mathieu Corderre-Gagnon is on his third assignment to St. John’s this season, but he still awaits to play his first game. In the ECHL he has played both forward and defence for the Beast, earning two goals and two assists in 15 games.
Goaltender Bryan Pitton was signed to his second PTO of the season, indicating that there may be some upcoming movement in the goaltender position for the IceCaps and possibly the Canadiens. In one game with the IceCaps this season, Pitton registered a 4.06GAA and 0.789SV% in a losing effort. In nine games with the Beast he has a 5.00GAA and a 0.836SV%, registering two wins for the ECHL club.
A second player was signed to a PTO: Brandon MacLean. MacLean has scored 10 goals and added 15 assists in 27 games, but he is far from the most likely forward to be brought up from the Beast, which makes this move very interesting. Yannick Veilleux remains with the IceCaps after starting the season in the ECHL with the Beast. In seven games with the IceCaps, Veilleux has scored a goal and added two assists.
The IceCaps also recalled goaltender Zachary Fucale from loan to Brampton, but this was merely a technicality in order to loan him to Team Canada for the Spengler Cup.
Pending unannounced player movements, the IceCaps will have 15 healthy forwards (including Scherbak), eight defencemen, and three goaltenders for this road trip.
Monday, December 26th @ Toronto Marlies (13-12-3)
The first game of the week will be on Boxing Day, and it will against the Toronto Marlies. These two divisional rivals play each other 12 times a season, and therefore each game is vital for capturing precious points in the standings. So far this season the IceCaps have won twice and lost twice against the Marlies, losing their last game via a shutout. Although the Marlies have been mostly stripped down due to call-ups to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bredan Leipsic, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andrew Nielsen remain dangerous players. In addition, the Marlies continue to have veteran forwards Colin Greening, Brooks Laich, and Milan Michalek buried in the AHL, causing problems for the opposing teams.
Wednesday, December 28th & Friday, December 30th @ Utica Comets (10-14-4)
The IceCaps head to upstate New York for a few games, starting with a two-games series against the Utica Comets. So far this season the IceCaps have beaten the Comets in both of their contests. They could use continued success in order to add to their point total on the season, as they are in a tight race for a playoff spot, and must absolutely earn points against the weaker teams in the division. Jordan Subban is close to Utica’s lead in points, and is slowly rounding into shape as a professional hockey player. It is unlikely that he will ever achieve the stardom of his eldest sibling, although it will be interesting to watch his continued development.
Saturday, December 31st @ Syracuse Crunch (16-8-3)
Finally, the IceCaps will play against the powerhouse Syracuse Crunch on New Year’s Eve, the leading team in the North Division. In their last meeting the IceCaps squeaked out a shootout victory against Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Cory Conachar, and the prospects from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Syracuse goaltender Adam Wilcox might start feeling a bit lonely as Kristers Gudlevskis has been recalled to the Lightning, however Wilcox has been dominant this year for the Crunch, and should pose a real problem for the IceCaps.