Laval Rocket has right bal­ance

Cana­di­ens’ farm team fea­tures plenty of in­trigu­ing young tal­ent as well

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - PAT HICKEY

There’s one pro­fes­sional hockey team in the Mon­treal area that is win­ning games — and scor­ing goals.

The Laval Rocket is off to a fast start in the Amer­i­can Hockey League af­ter sweep­ing the Belleville Sen­a­tors last week­end 3-0 and 6-2 at Place Bell in Laval.

As Laval pre­pares to meet the Bing­ham­ton Devils in a pair of home games Fri­day at 7:30 p.m. and Satur­day at 3 p.m., coach Syl­vain Le­feb­vre said he’s ex­cited about a lineup that of­fers a bal­ance of vet­er­ans and young play­ers with their best years ahead of them.

“Not to take away from the vets, but we have play­ers like (Nikita) Scherbak, who is in his third sea­son, and Daniel Audette, who is in his sec­ond sea­son, and you can see the growth there,” Le­feb­vre said.

One prob­lem fac­ing some AHL play­ers early in the sea­son is NHL han­gover. If a player didn’t have a good NHL camp — or maybe had a good camp but was caught up in the num­bers game — he might have a prob­lem fo­cus­ing on the task at hand af­ter be­ing sent down.

Le­feb­vre said that hasn’t been an is­sue.

“Scherbak didn’t have a good (NHL) camp and he knows it, but he had a good week of camp with us and the Cana­di­ens called him back for one (ex­hi­bi­tion) game and he played well,” Le­feb­vre said.

The Rus­sian for­ward had a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence last sea­son. He was called up to the Cana­di­ens for three reg­u­lar sea­son games and, when he re­turned to the St. John’s IceCaps, he had dif­fi­culty get­ting back on track.

“It’s the same with (Michael) McCar­ron,” Le­feb­vre said. “He didn’t have a great camp, but he came back to us with a great at­ti­tude.”

The 22-year-old McCar­ron played 31 games with the Cana­di­ens last sea­son, but lost the fourth-line cen­tre job to Ja­cob De La Rose. That de­ci­sion might have been af­fected by the fact McCar­ron could be sent down with­out need­ing to clear waivers.

Le­feb­vre has one num­bers prob­lem — he has too many vet­er­ans. But he said that’s a prob­lem that will sort it­self out.

Laval has seven vet­er­ans, Le­feb­vre said.

“Too many, but I think that’s a good prob­lem. I think not only tal­ent-wise but lead­er­ship-wise, we have a good group that can help the young guys.”

AHL teams dress 18 play­ers for a game — two fewer than the NHL — and most must be young pros with fewer than 260 pro games of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We can dress five vet­er­ans and we can also use one player with between 260 and 320 games,” Le­feb­vre said. “We have seven vet­eran play­ers, in­clud­ing Jakub Jer­abek and Byron Froese who fall into that (260 to 320 games) cat­e­gory, so we have to dress one of them.”

Jer­abek was a healthy scratch for the sea­son opener, but he played in the sec­ond game and picked up two as­sists. The Czech played last sea­son in the KHL, and is ex­pected to have a shot at the NHL af­ter he gains more North Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’m feel­ing more com­fort­able ev­ery day,” Jer­abek said af­ter prac­tice Thurs­day.

While the em­pha­sis is on the young­sters, most of the vet­er­ans have NHL ex­pe­ri­ence and are look­ing for an­other shot. When you con­sider the Cana­di­ens are hav­ing trou­ble scor­ing goals, it’s not in­con­ceiv­able that Chris Terry will get a call if the par­ent club runs into in­juries or feels the need for a spark. He has 152 NHL games on his re­sumé.

“I think I’ve shown I can score goals,” said Terry, who had 30 goals in 58 games with St. John’s last sea­son and also picked up two goals in a 14-game run with the Cana­di­ens. “The AHL isn’t the same as the NHL, but I’ve been up be­fore, I know what it’s about.”

Too many (vets), but I think that’s a good prob­lem. I think not only tal­ent-wise but lead­er­ship-wise, we have a good group that can help the young guys.

DAVE SIDAWAY

Laval Rocket for­ward Michael McCar­ron, cen­tre, didn’t have a great train­ing camp with the Cana­di­ens but joined the Amer­i­can Hockey League club with a great at­ti­tude, coach Syl­vain Le­feb­vre said. McCar­ron played 31 games with the Habs last sea­son.

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