Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Week in Review, Goalie Logjam, Jesperi Kotkaniemi Debut

Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Photo by Laval Rocket)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Rocket played three games last week and collected three of the six available points in the standings. They are currently fifth in the Atlantic division tied with the Marlies who have one game in hand. Laval has one game in hand over the Crunch who are currently in sixth place in trailing the Rocket by two points.

The week began on Wednesday night at Place Bell as Laval beat Utica 5-4 in overtime. Xavier Ouellet and Jake Evans, both recalled the following day by the Canadiens, were the heroes of the game. Ouellet scored the game winning goal and added three assists, while Evans scored twice and added an assist.

“I thought we brought a lot of offence. It’s probably one of the game when we brought the most dangerous offence. We could have win this game and score even more goals,” said Joel Bouchard after the game.

On Saturday, Laval began their five game road trip in Belleville with 3-2 loss against the Senators. Riley Barber and Charles Hudon each obtained one goal and one assist. The Rocket have struggled against the Senators this season, collecting a total of five points in the seven games against them.

“I just hate losing against these guys in general, so this one sucks,” Ouellet said following the loss against Belleville on February 1st. Laval will need to find the recipe for success against their division rivals in their playoff push as they will face them five more times until the end of the season.

On Sunday, the Marlies took a 3-0 lead early in the game and went on to win 5-2. The Rocket weren’t able to capitalize on their six power plays and allowed a goal while having an extra attacker on the ice. Cale Fleury scored his first goal since joining the team, while Matthew Peca scored his first goal in 12 games.

“A little bit of a shaky start, and once we got under our boots, I think it was almost too late. You know what I mean? I mean, it seems we were applying pressure at the end of the game, but when you’re down by three, it’s tough to come back. So I think it’s just playing a full 60 minutes for us. And I think if we can do that moving forward it will be good,” Ryan Poehling told 91.9 Sports after the game.

Laval ends their stretch of nine consecutive games against divisional opponents on Wednesday in Utica, and then head to Hartford to face the Wolfpack on Valentine’s Day and then to Providence to face the Bruins on Sunday.

Goaltending Logjam 

The flu made the rounds of the Canadiens last week affecting Carey Price forcing him to miss a game against the Devils. As a result, Cayden Primeau was recalled to act as a backup to Charlie Lindgren, and Michael McNiven was recalled to Laval from Norfolk in the ECHL. Primeau’s stint with Montreal was short as he was assigned back to Laval on Wednesday.

Kinkaid was visibly frustrated by the decision and he vented in an animated discussion with Bouchard at the end of practice last Tuesday. “He’s frustrated. It wasn’t his plan to be in Laval. And even though we have a good relationship, it’s a lot to deal with. Let’s not pretend that a veteran being overlooked while a 20-year-old gets called up to the NHL is a lot to swallow,” Bouchard told the media after practice.

McNiven got the start on Wednesday night and made 31 saves to get his first win of the season. “It felt good again to be on the ice and it was a little nerve wracking, but second shot went in, but after that I felt fine and I got the jitter bugs out after the first, ” he said after the game. “I think you know, positionally, my team helped me out, the more shots they keep on the outside, the easier it is for me and they did a good job of that today.”

Norfolk acquired a goalie to replace McNiven as soon as he was recalled by Laval, which means that Canadiens prospect has no home in the ECHL, resulting in all three goalies travelling with the team on their five game road trip. This allows McNiven to get in some practice time with goaltending coach Marco Marciano. It will be the first time this season that McNiven has any coach working with him on his game.

It’s unknown how Laval will handle the goaltending situation for the balance of the season. We know that a three goalie tandem doesn’t work as there isn’t enough ice time for all of them, we know that McNiven wants to play with Laval, and we know that Kinkaid isn’t happy with his current situation.

If it were up to me, Primeau and McNiven would be the goaltending duo for the remainder of the season. If none of the goalies in the organization are involved in a trade before deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kinkaid gets recalled to the Canadiens.

If Montreal continues to go all in to clinch a playoff spot, Price will get the majority of the starts until game 82. As the third goalie, Kinkaid would act in the same role that Lindgren had last year, which is participate in practices to rest the starting goalie.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi Debut 

Jesperi Kotkaniemi was visibly disappointed when he was assigned to Laval from the Canadiens, which is expected. Kotkaniemi had struggled for most of the season in Montreal.

Through four games with Laval, Kotkaniemi has looked more confident, which has resulted in success on the scoreboard with seven assists through four games. Bouchard has used him on the top line with Hudon to his left and a rotation of other players to his right. Kotkaniemi has also been given time on the top power play unit and the coach mentioned that he will be played in all situations including the penalty kill.

“The effort is there, and the attitude is really good. There’s no problem with his talent. There’s some details that we will have to work and show him. It’s not being negative towards the player at all,” Bouchard told 91.9 Sports in Belleville before adding that Kotkaniemi has shown good things with his performances.

“He came in with a smile, he came in being happy to play hockey. I mean, obviously we all know he wants to be up there, but he came in with good energy ready to play and that’s what he’s doing and he’s doing really good for us,” said Ouellet following the win about the 19-year old following the win against the Comets.

By Chris G., Senior Writer.
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2019 Rocket Sports

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