The visiting Laval Rocket will go into Game 7 of its Calder Cup Eastern Conference final against the Springfield Thunderbirds Wednesday (7pm, RDS, 91.9 FM) without forward Jesse Ylonen.
Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle said Tuesday that Ylönen suffered an upper-body injury when he took a heavy hit from Mackenzie MacEachern late in the first period of the Rocket’s 5-1 win Monday.
“We still don’t know how long he will be out,” said Houle, who would like to think Ylönen might be able to contribute if the Rocket advances to the Calder Cup final.
“We are confident with the group we have,” Houle added. “The guys who played on Monday night gave us big hockey. We will try to find an offensive-style replacement for Ylönen, someone who is the same kind of player, but nothing is decided yet.”
If he’s looking for offense, that could mean QMJHL scoring leader Joshua Roy. He’s short on experience, with only one AHL game on his resume, but Houle will be able to spot him because he’s likely to continue playing with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
Despite the loss of a key player, there was a relaxed air around the Rocket Tuesday and the players engaged in an impromptu game of soccer in the corridors of the arena after Houle decided not to send his players onto the ice.
“The pressure is totally on (Springfield’s) side,” said Houle. “We are going to get on the ice and we are going to have fun, we are confident. We want to be ready. If we can play another game like Monday night, being patient, waiting for their mistakes … we will be happy with our game.”
The Rocket limited Springfield’s scoring chances, continued to be strong on the penalty-kill — Springfield’s power play is 0-for-29 in this series — and had another strong performance from goaltender Cayden Primeau, who made 30 saves.
“He’s really in his bubble right now and it’s nice to see that,” said Houle. “It’s a good sign when a young goaltender can make the key saves and take his team to another level. If he wants to play in the NHL full time, I think he’s going to have to play like this and be consistent for a full season.”
“We gave up fewer shots than in other games,” added Houle. “We broke more plays in the defensive zone with good sticks. Martin Laperriere did an incredible job again on the penalty kill. It was perfect. I liked the commitment of all the players.”
“When we spoke after the second period, I said that we should not panic and stay in our game,” said Danick Martel, who led the rocket offense with two goals and an assist on Gabriel Bourque’s second-period goal, which stood up as the winner
In other news, the Canadiens have signed a one-year contract with defenseman Otto Leskinen, which will pay him $750,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 at the AHL level.
And Canadiens’ defense prospect Kaiden Guhle was named the most valuable player in the Western Hockey League playoffs after the Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games in the WHL final. Guhle scored a goal in the 2-0 series-clinching win Monday as the Oil Kings advanced to the Memorial Cup.
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