It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the Bulldogs’ resolution is for this coming year. After closing out 2007 with only 11 wins through their first 31 games, Don Lever’s squad has gone 11-8 so far in 2008. The ‘Dogs won four games from Feb. 1-8, before dropping a 3-0 decision to the Toronto Marlies on Feb. 9.
“Don” Perignon: Saturday, Feb. 2 was a milestone night for Lever. It marked his 206th game behind the Hamilton bench, making him the longest-serving head coach in franchise history. Lever leapfrogged over his predecessor and former Habs bench boss Claude Julien, who held the reigns for 205 games from 2000-2003.
When Halak attacks: Jaroslav Halak showed no signs of rust in his first week back in Hamilton, stopping 63-of-67 shots in two appearances, for a sparkling 1.93 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. The 22-year-old continues to rank among the top active AHL netminders, sitting 11th with 2.31 goals-against and eighth overall with a .921 save percentage.
“Locke” Ness Monster: After becoming the Bulldogs’ all-time point leader back on Dec. 29, Corey Locke further cemented his place in the club’s record books in the first two weeks of February. The 23-year-old center scored his 72nd goal in a Bulldogs uniform on Feb. 2, passing current Hab Tomas Plekanec and Brian Swanson to become Hamilton’s all-time goal-scoring leader. On Feb. 8, Locke then added his name to the books once again when he assisted on the opening goal in a 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage, his first of three points on the night. The helper lifted Locke into top spot in all-time assists with the Bulldogs, dethroning Pete Sarno. Locke now leads the Bulldogs career list in all offensive categories (75-125-200).
It’s Milroy time: Though Locke holds the record for most career tallies as a Hamilton Bulldog, winger Duncan Milroy is hot on his trail. Milroy potted the 71st of his AHL career on Wednesday night in a 5-2 loss to the Marlies. The 24-year-old is just four goals shy of Locke’s 75 for the all-time franchise lead.
A Valentine for Valentenko: Defenseman Pavel Valentenko has enjoyed a steady start to his professional North American career. The Russian rookie has picked up 12 assists in 44 games so far, in addition to posting a plus-7 differential. Valentenko has closed out each month of the season with at least an even plus/minus rating.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com