La­joie close to re­turn­ing

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors’ rookie de­fence­man could be a game-time de­ci­sion against the Cana­di­ens

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - KEN WAR­REN

Max La­joie scored the gamewin­ning goal for his team Wed­nes­day.

Of course, it was only dur­ing a spir­ited game of two-on-two, played in­side the blue-line, with the re­ward of avoid­ing a few wind sprints at the tail end of prac­tice.

Yet, it was also a promis­ing sign that the 21-year-old rookie de­fence man is on the verge of re­turn­ing to the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors lineup af­ter miss­ing the past two games with an undis­closed in­jury.

“I’m feel­ing good and we’ll see how (Thurs­day) feels,” La­joie said about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­turn­ing for the sec­ond game of the home-and-away se­ries against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre. “It’s just a mat­ter of time now.”

La­joie has im­pressed with six goals and six as­sists in the first 26 games of his ca­reer and he has man­aged to find a ben­e­fit while watch­ing from the side­lines. At least he was try­ing to find the pos­i­tives from the neg­a­tives of be­ing a spec­ta­tor for Tues­day’s 5-2 loss to the Cana­di­ens at the Bell Cen­tre.

“It’s nice to be able to see from above the play (in the press box),” he said. “That was a tough game for us and we’ve got them again right away, so that should be a big chal­lenge for us.”

Se­na­tors coach Guy Boucher says a de­ci­sion on La­joie’s sta­tus will be made af­ter either the morn­ing skate or dur­ing the pre-game warm-up. If he plays, Boucher will likely have to choose to make either Chris­tian Jaros, Ben Harpur or new­comer Justin Falk a healthy scratch.

Boucher cer­tainly didn’t want to use La­joie’s ab­sence as any kind of ex­cuse for the sub-par per­for­mance on Tues­day that took the steam out of what had been a three­game win­ning streak.

He didn’t like the Thomas Chabot turnover that led di­rectly to Maxi Domi’s goal, which broke a 1-1 tie late in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Boucher was also shak­ing his head at the fact the Se­na­tors lost their cool yet again in try­ing to tie the game im­me­di­ately. In­stead of ral­ly­ing, that led to a sec­ond Domi goal and an­other from Art­turi Lehknonen be­fore the pe­riod was out. What had been a tight game turned into a 4-1 Cana­di­ens lead with three goals in a 3:39 span.

Naturally enough, Wed­nes­day’s day at the of­fice fea­tured a video ses­sion and an on-ice prac­tice em­pha­siz­ing, yet again, the fun­da­men­tals of a sound de­fen­sive game. The Se­na­tors have given up at least five goals in eight of 13 road games and in 11 of 28 con­tests over­all.

Cen­tre Zack Smith, how­ever, called Tues­day’s de­feat a “hic­cup” from the im­proved de­fen­sive game the club had show­cased in its pre­vi­ous four games.

“We weren’t quite ready to play right from the start,” said Smith. “They were bet­ter and kept their foot on the gas. It’s only one game. We’re only a few days away from play­ing our best hockey of the year.

“We still have con­fi­dence. (Thurs­day) is a good op­por­tu­nity and we have a lot to prove. The easy way to ex­plain (the loss) is that our ef­fort level was not there, but we don’t have too many days to think about it.”

Con­sid­er­ing the jam-packed na­ture of the mid­dle and bot­tom of the East­ern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, a Se­na­tors vic­tory could vault them three, four or even five po­si­tions up the lad­der.

Rookie left winger Brady Tkachuk, who hit a pair of posts and nar­rowly missed an an­other open net Tues­day, says he can’t af­ford to miss those chances. He couldn’t help but no­tice that his brother, Matthew, piled up a goal and two as­sists in Cal­gary ’s wild 9-6 win over Colum­bus on Tues­day.

“Those are the games you want to play in,” he said.

“It’s frus­trat­ing to hit a cou­ple of posts and if some of those shots go in, it changes the game. But I didn’t play the game I wanted to play. I’ve got to move on and play bet­ter. It’s not ac­cept­able. I’ve got to make sure I add a lit­tle ex­tra jam and make sure they go in and it changes the mo­men­tum.”

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON/ POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Ot­tawa rookie Max La­joie, left, cel­e­brates his first NHL goal dur­ing the sea­son opener on Oct. 4.

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