The beloved Monsters kicked off their Southwestern Swing Wednesday with a 6-4 loss at Texas. Now we head to San Antonio for a weekend series with the Ramps before closing out the trip in Austin again on Tuesday.
- Calvin Pickard has been up with the Avs on an emergency basis, meaning he can only dress/play if Varly is out of the lineup. After Thursday's game, Coach Roy indicated that Calvin was headed back to the Monsters. I kind of doubt he can get back in time to be an effective starter tonight, but hopefully Saturday he'll be there.
- More AHL franchises are on the move for next year!
Late Thursday it was announced that the Canadiens have gained approval to buy the Hamilton Bulldogs. For next year at least they will play in St Johns. I expected this in the next few years, but I thought they would wait until a new arena was constructed in the Montreal suburbs to make the move. Hamilton doesn't draw well at all so I guess the time came to get out of town.
The Winnipeg Jets also gained approval to move the current St Johns AHL franchise to Winnipeg, again for at least next year. There has been talk for years of the Jets owners wanting to move their affiliate to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and again upon the completion of a new arena. I have no concrete knowledge whether that's still in the works, if the new Manitoba Moose are successful at the gate they might just stay there.
No schedule or re-alignment news was put forth but safe to say major changes are in the works for next year as soon as the Board of Governors get a chance to figure this all out. It's a big task, with the California migration and now these moves there's a lot to consider.
I'd like to see them go with 4 divisions like the NHL, there just aren't enough logical 5 team groupings to make the current system work and putting the travel burden exclusively on the Western teams pretty much sucks for them. Add the Texas teams to California for 7, add Iowa and Winnipeg to the Midwest for 7 and split the rest into two 8 team Eastern divisions and they might have something workable.
Recap - Texas
The Monsters played a much better game against the Stars than the 6-4 score would indicate, unfortunately their goaltender did not. Ben Youds scored his first goal as a Monster on a beautiful end-to-end rush, Sam Henley had a wild angle roof job, Ben Street scored the elusive PPG and Reid Petryk capped off a really good night with a steal n’ score 6v5. I wouldn’t describe any of the Stars 6 goals as difficult, they didn’t have anywhere near the amount of chances Lake Erie did but their shots just ended up in the back of the net.
Don’t know what was up with Aittokallio, he just wasn’t good. He started and won last Friday so it’s not like he was coming in cold, and Pickard was called up Monday so it wasn’t even a surprise start. He’s just got to buckle down and forget about it against a better team on Friday night in San Antonio.
Preview - San Antonio
The Rampage are in 4th place in the WC and comfortably in the playoffs at this point. The Monsters beat them 6-2 and 3-2 in OT at the Q in late January, so there's a chance...
The key will be... some good goaltending! The Monsters have been playing some fine hockey lately, the defense is really improved since the deadline and even tho' scoring is still somewhat elusive with the depleted lineup, there should be enough.
Lines from Wednesday:
Injured: Clark (illness), Mitch (LBI) plus Smitty & Max
Hopefully Clark is well enough to play again, he's been quite solid and any minutes he can take away from Gervais are a huge plus. Calvin will play at some point obviously. Other than that I don't expect many changes. Without a center for the 4th, Coach Dean seems content to roll with 11F/7D and use Corbett almost exclusively on power plays.
The bench got short fairly quickly against Texas, with Beaupre and Corbett playing rarely and basically only 3 lines getting regular shifts. Kyle Jean has been a nice surprise as a PTO and has earned more playing time than you would guess. Duncan & Stef are building chemistry as the 1st pair with Siemens taking some nice steps forward in the last few games with more responsibility. Reid Petryk has moved all the way up to the 1st line and doesn't look out of place, even earning some regular PK time. If he were on an NHL contract I wouldn't be surprised if the Avs thought of calling him up for a game late in the year. Somebody in the org likes him, he's been on the radar since the 12-13 season.
Friday night at San Antonio 8:30pm in the ET, radio on WHK
Saturday night at San Antonio 8:00pm in the ET, radio on WHK
Tuesday night at Texas 8:30pm in the ET, radio on WKNR
Next Friday night at the Marlies
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Other than Saturday's game vs Calgary, these contests don't conflict with the Avs so stop on by and support your Monsters. Enjoy!