Hamilton faces their rivals the Toronto Marlies for the 4th of 12 matches this year at 730 EST.
After another loss Wednesday against the Rochester Americans and winless without leading scorer Blake Geoffrion, Bulldogs’ head coach Lefebvre choose to mix up his lineup today.
First off, the “CHL” line, that had started out strong but failed to score in recent games has been split up. Bournival takes the job Geoffrion used to fill as center of a top line between Quailer and Palushaj. After a weak game, Patrick Holland gets demoted to the 4th line, centered by Alain Berger (who isn’t a center). Josh will be happy to see Alex Avtsin play in the lineup for the first time as the 3rd RW. The 2nd line promotes up Blunden, who has played relatively well as the 3rd line left wing to play with a pair of feisty midgets in Dumont and Gallagher. Its hard to tell exactly what the mission of the 3rd line is, Nattinen and Boyce are shutdown players put with Avtsin who is only good for offense. Thankfully, Hagel fails to make the lineup.
The questionable decision to use Berger at center instead of calling up proven AHL center Fortier from the ECHL remains in place.
The forward group looks like a hodgepodge of players thrown together and its hard to fathom what exactly the mission of each line will be.
On defense, it looks like they have gone with building a shutdown pairing around St. Denis by playing Morgan Ellis on his right side. The improving Jarred Tinordi is paired with Stejskal, who was poor in his first night against Rochester. Nathan Beaulieu, whose recent struggles have sunk what had been a pretty good start as an ES defenseman is paired with Corbin, hopefully with an eye of using them exclusively in the offensive zone because it looks like an experiment that could easily end in tears. The coaching staff must have a lower opinion of Brandon Nash than I do because he is once again a healthy scratch.
Thankfully, the Bulldogs got a major upgrade in Goal. Star starting goaltender Cedric Desjardins is confirmed to have his first game tonight.
On the other side, Marlies may be without their top goal scorer in the annoying Leo Komarov in the future, who is looking to defect back to Russia, but apparently is in the lineup tonight. They are also to be re-inforced by Matt Frattin, who signed an AHL deal today to re-join the team he scored 14 goals for in 23 regular season games last year, but its unclear if he will be in the lineup tonight. Frattin is another NHL level player that the Bulldogs cannot match with their current roster. The strength of the Marlies roster though is their defense, lead by the high scoring pairing of Jake Gardiner and Mike Kostka, who are Toronto’s 1st and 3rd top scorers and the top two in shots per game for the Marlies. The combination of Aucion, Zigomanis, Colborne and Acton at center is far superior to what the Bulldogs can ice tonight.
After a minor injury to their starter, Ben Scrivvens gets the start tonight.
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On the team side, Toronto has been generally superior but mostly in terms of offense where the Bulldog’s failure to turn shots into goals has worked against them. Toronto has a much better shot differential though a reversal of the situation when the two teams faced each other last. This is a sign of how far the Bulldog’s puck possession game has declined and the general cratering of the team’s ability to compete 5 on 5. On special teams, the Dogs have a slight advantage thanks to their fantastic penalty kill compared to the Marlies’ putrid play with a man down.