MONTREAL- The return to action of injured Canadiens players is also good news in Hamilton.
During the past weeks, if not months, several Bulldogs regulars were shuttled between Hamilton and Montreal.
“There are lots of adjustments to make. It’s never easy but we have to manage the situation with the resources we have. Every team in the American Hockey League is in the same situation,” mentioned Sylvain Lefebvre, the Bulldogs’ head coach, who is looking forward to the return of several key players, some of them also from injury. “In the last few games, it’s been tough for us. But we are also starting to get some players back, including guys like Christian Thomas and Patrick Holland.”
Such is the case for forward Sven Andrighetto, who has put up 11 points since the start of the season, including a four-game scoring streak between November 6th and 13th.
“He’s getting powerplay time, he’s playing with Martin St-Pierre. He’s a player who needs to be placed in an offensive context to get to the next level. Things are going really well for him right now,” underlined Lefebvre, who is seeing the twenty year-old lead all Bulldogs with seven goals.
Despite his diminutive stature, the transition between the QMJHL and the AHL has been a relatively smooth one for the former Rouyn-Noranda Husky.
“He’s doing well,” maintained Lefebvre regarding Andrighetto’s adjustment to the pro game, playing against bigger, stronger AHL competition. “Of course he has things to learn, like any other player on the team. There are small things he needs to master defensively, especially when it comes to protecting the puck.”
In addition to his offensive production, the young man from Zurich, Switzerland boasts a plus-minus rating of +4, good for second on the team right behind Greg Pateryn’s +5.
Another impressive prospect is defenseman Magnus Nygren, who has wasted little time in adapting to the North American style of play.
Despite cooling off somewhat in the last few games, Sylvain Lefebvre is by no means concerned about the Swedish rearguard, winner of the Borje Salming Trophy for best defenseman in the Swedish Elite League in 2012-13.
“Cold streaks happen. After three weeks, a month, guys start getting a bit homesick. There are so many adjustments to make right from the start that it’s normal to have a few difficult moments,” offered Lefebvre about his pupil Nygren, who made the jump from Europe to North America over the course of the summer.
“I have no doubt in my mind that he can make it in the NHL,” asserted the Bulldogs’ bench boss regarding his powerplay quarterback, a player who put up 87.5% of his points with the man advantage.
Dustin Tokarski and Robert Mayer have shared the workload in goal for the Bulldogs, as it was the plan at the start of the season. Their development is being entrusted to newly hired Vincent Riendeau, a former NHL goalie himself.
“We knew from the start that we had two potential number one goalies. We made sure that both of them are getting icetime, and to see if one of them stands out more than the other,” explained Lefebvre.
Up to now, Tokarski has put up a 5-3-1 record in nine starts, with a 92.0% save percentage and a 2.28 goals against average, good for 11th among all AHL netminders. Meanwhile, Mayer, a veteran of five seasons with the Bulldogs, is 1-4-2 with a 89.1% save percentage and a 3.39 goals against average.
“Both goaltenders are doing good things,” concluded Lefebvre, who can now count on a full lineup with the return of winger Christian Thomas, who has been on duty for the past two games.
The Bulldogs will play a rare game at the Bell Centre, on November 22. In Montreal, they will take on the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s minor league affiliate.
Vincent Cauchy writes for canadiens.com, translated by Jack Han.
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