Our beloved Monsters find themselves a little behind the 8-ball early in the season with one win followed by a trio of losses so far. This weekend's tour includes stops in Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Rockford, who are a combined 9-3-0 but LEM's 1 win came at GRG so we've got that going for us.
- After dressing as the backup in the Avs/Habs game and enjoying the fabulous Pepsi Center press box for the Panthers game, Sami Aittokallio was back at practice Thursday and was named starter for the Grand Rapids game on Friday. Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Tim Warsinskey caught up with him yesterday and posted this fine article.
- Calvin Pickard was returned to the Monsters on Thursday afternoon after Avs practice. No word on when we may see him back in a Lake Erie uniform but Saturday night in Milwaukee is looking promising.
- The Avs loss is Lake Erie's gain with the demotion of Swedish forward Dennis Everberg. Coach Roy doesn't plan to bring him back at this point so let's enjoy it, shall we?
- Reid Petryk comes off the injury list and makes his way over to Ft Wayne, joining Francois Tremblay in his journey West.
- Mitch Heard made his Komets debut on Saturday and had the winning goal and an assist.
Week 2 recap:
The Monsters headed to Chicago last week for a pair against the defending division champs and it was less than outstanding. Dennis Everberg, Joey Hishon, Markus Lauridsen and Roman Will made their season debuts on Friday. The good guys played solid and although outshot 31-18 spent a lot of time in the offensive zone but found themselves on the short end of a 4-0 score.
Saturday's game was ugly, Chicago had a 4-0 lead halfway through the game, ending up 7-2 Wolves. The defense was porous, Roman Will struggled and despite a couple of score effect goals from Everberg and Elliott getting it close for a couple of minutes, it was a forgettable performance.
Mike Sgarbossa had an assist for 4 on the year to lead the team, Paul Carey is still on 3 points and Aggz, Rendulic, Ryan, Stollery and Noreau have 2.
Practice lines this week:
Hishon - Aggz - Rendulic
Schumacher - Sgarbossa - Everberg
Carey - Smitty - Ryan
Bourke - Henley - Mags
Meurs/Cheek look like the scratches.
The defensive pairs were consistent over the first three games but had a mixup for the last .
Stollery - Elliott
Siemens - Gervais
Beaupre - Noreau
Looking at the scoreboard, this didn't really work and there's not much else that can be done towards better defensive zone play. Noreau and Elliott are predictably bad without the puck, Siemens and Beaupre are the only big, physical defenders and Gervais has been pretty mediocre overall. Lauridsen amplified the D-zone weakness when he played on Friday, no help there. It would be nice to see what Corbett can do when he gets healthy, but putting him in at the expense of Beaupre doesn't sound promising.
The Monsters really need some points this weekend, it's early in the season but coming home empty-handed with a set against Texas next week would be just short of a disaster. Similar to the Avs situation in many ways, the Midwest division contains the farm clubs for 4 of the 7 teams in the NHL Central division and is thought to be the toughest in the league. Half of the schedule involves these teams so Lake Erie needs to learn how to cope starting now.
Coach Dean made it a point to focus on team defense in practice this week to hopefully shift some of the load off the goaltenders. LEM is getting outshot by an average of almost 10 per game, but getting shots on net is the big problem. 21 per game won't get it done in the long run. The Monsters defense is still small and built towards offense and the only way it's going to work is if they get the puck and move it quickly out of the zone, which hasn't happened enough since the first game. The larger forwards have been taking a bigger role in front of the net and in the corners but that ends up making breakouts more difficult. Everberg, Henley, Schumacher and Maggio end up being de facto defensemen while the smaller Ds are more like wingers. Tough situation.
Friday night at Grand Rapids 7:00pm in the ET, radio on 1420 WHK
Saturday night at Milwaukee 8:00pm in the ET, radio on 99x
Sunday afternoon at Rockford 5:00pm in the ET, radio on 1420 WHK
The Monsters have a new redesigned website now, big improvement so far. Hopefully they make it easier to find the interviews and highlights and whatnot. They have been generating some good content that never saw the light of day because of poor/irrational site navigation and linking.
Doug Plagens has started a weekly blog on the LEM site, check it out
GRG/LEM preview from the Monsters site
Two games against Calder Cup champs Texas at home next weekend
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As usual I'll have updates here and on twitter during the games. Enjoy!