The beloved Monsters head up north once again this weekend to face old pals the Amerks and Bulldogs. LEM have have slid back to .500 and 12th place in the WC after an impressive run in December and need to start kicking some ass.
- Not that anyone thought the Monsters were leaving Cleveland, but here's a good article confirming that they will not.
- Some injury updates:
Sam Henley has been at home dealing with a family matter and returned to Cleveland last Saturday. Good chance he returns to the lineup tonight.
Maggio and Vincour practiced with the team on Wednesday and apparently looked fine. Word on the street is that Maggio is cleared to play, haven't heard anything about Vinny.
Markus Lauridsen's UBI is a shoulder issue. Moose missed a big chunk of last season with a separated shoulder, hopefully this is something short-term.
- Reid Petryk and Joey Leach were returned to Ft Wayne earlier in the week and Gabe Beaupre came back the other way. Petryk makes room for Big Sam and possibly Mags to return. Not sure about why the Leach/Beaupre swap was made.
- Doug Plagens "Power Plagens" blog returns this week with his take on the best of 2014.
Recap: Week 13
The OKC Barons made their final appearance at the Q last weekend and took both games from the Monsters 3-2 and 5-2. LEM played good, but not good enough, and some of the flaws that have plagued them recently were highlighted.
First, some or most of the defensemen are slightly too aggressive right now. Noreau and especially Gervais are getting caught pinching way too much. What this generally creates is loss of possession in the offensive zone and at worst it creates odd-man rushes the other way. Brian Engblom had a nice breakdown of EJ doing this in the Avs telecast last Friday, where there were 3 forwards down low, EJ pinched and took a low-percentage shot and the puck was instantly going the other way. It takes a lot of time and energy to regroup from that and I think that’s taking it’s toll on the Monsters right now. I’d like to see the D back off a bit and concentrate on keeping the puck in the zone more than shooting.
Second, the scoring funk seemingly everyone on the team is in has contributed heavily to the recent points slump. Oklahoma City is a really good team but the Monsters kept up with them on the ice in both games last weekend, just couldn’t get anything going offensively. LEM outshot OKC in both games but couldn't manage to score when they really needed to. When your 4th line is your most effective, bad things happen.
Third, I think injuries are starting to have an effect although nowhere near to the degree we’ve seen in seasons past. Henley was really missed. He plays a lot of difficult minutes in the D-zone especially in the second half of games and there wasn’t anyone that can be that "third defenseman" replacing him. Also, with Lauridsen out and the Siemens scratch in the last few games, Cody Corbett is in there full time and unfortunately paired with Gervais. I like Corbett’s skillset, 2 years from now I think he’ll be pretty impressive but right now he’s a rookie and plays like one. Asking him to babysit Bruno is way beyond his ken.
Lines from last weekend:
* - Heard and Smith swapped places on Saturday
Preview: Rochester & Hamilton
Rochester beat the Monsters 4-1 on the day after Christmas in a fairly ugly game LEM needed to win. The Amerks are still close to the basement of the WC but have been playing better recently. A loss puts Lake Erie back under .500 and we sure don't need that.
Hamilton is 3 points ahead of LEM with 2 more games played. The 'Dogs play Utica tonight, which is pretty much a guaranteed loss. If the Monsters take both games this weekend they'll be right outside of a playoff spot and back on track. Do it!
Friday night at Rochester, 7:00pm in the ET, radio on 850 WKNR
Saturday night at Hamilton, 7:00pm in the ET, radio on 1420 WHK
Another week of practice, then off to Chicago on Friday followed by 2 games at Iowa.
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Spend Friday & Saturday evening with the Monsters or stop by here for all the updates and recaps. Enjoy!