When the Montreal Canadiens misplaced their greatest defenseman to harm, a window of alternative opened up for Arbor Zekaj, Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic.
However now that Mike Matheson is ready to return to the lineup, the choice concerning ice time distribution is tougher than initially anticipated.
And this can be a excellent signal.
Harris and Kovacevic kind probably the most shocking and dependable pairings for the Canadiens. Maintaining a tally of their core numbers, St-Louis properly stored the 2 collectively throughout Friday morning’s observe.
Matheson slotted alongside Joel Edmondson and pushed Czekaj to the underside of the depth chart in favor of Chris Wideman.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) 18 November 2022
The pairings are a bit shocking, as Xhekaj has exceeded all expectations this season with the Montreal Canadiens, however they’re primarily based on logic.
Edmondson has struggled since his return to the lineup. Including Matheson to the pairing permits for higher puck management, which reduces the period of time Edmondson spends in his personal zone.
“His skating could be very environment friendly,” St-Louis mentioned. “It covers a number of snow. He’ll have the ability to eat up a number of minutes for us.”
Moreover, Matheson is among the greatest defenders by way of puck restoration and managed exits, which ought to improve the time the Canadiens spend within the offensive zone.
“He is probably the greatest skaters I’ve ever seen on the ice,” Edmondson mentioned. “Undoubtedly an excellent defender. He makes use of his pace to get out of sticky conditions. He has additionally taken an amazing shot. We’re ready for him to come back again.”
However Matheson’s imminent return leaves Zekez because the odd man out.
X marks the spot
The Canadiens might ship the burly defenseman to Laval to get extra ice time, however the Rockets at present have a lot of defensemen within the lineup.
Like their father or mother membership, the Rocket There are seated gamers who usually are not eligible to look at the sport from the press field. Including Czekaj to the combination would complicate the state of affairs, although he is actually an possibility if the Canadiens really feel he’d be higher within the AHL.
Nonetheless, St-Louis has acknowledged that he prefers to maintain forwards capped at 13, leaving him with 8 defenders within the combine.
On the subject of managing morale within the locker room, assigning a rookie to the press field as a part of a rotating forged of gamers is quite a bit simpler than telling a veteran trying to construct momentum for his or her subsequent contract to be a wholesome scratch.
With the harm to Jonathan Drouin and the task of Rem Pitlik to Laval, St.Louis has reached its most well-liked roster break up between defensemen and forwards.
In fact, the Canadiens might commerce one in all their veteran defensemen, which might be the perfect long-term state of affairs, however even when they’ve usually performed nicely, it is helpful to insulate a number of rookies on the blue line with skilled mentors. .
No matter how they method the state of affairs, Xhekaj sees it as a chance to push themselves to the following stage.
“I do not actually know what is going on to occur,” Kshekaj mentioned. “However it permits me to work tougher, even tougher than what I have been engaged on, whereas nonetheless bringing confidence to my recreation. It simply takes psychological toughness, and I feel I am mentally robust, and that is what is going on to spice up my confidence each evening.”
It is not possible to foretell which method the Montreal Canadiens will go, however so long as they’ll rotate him into the lineup with some semblance of regularity, holding Xhekaj within the NHL looks as if probably the most logical selection from an organizational standpoint.