Keith McCambridge has only seen him for two games, but the early line on newest St. John’s IceCap Maxime Macenauer, according to the coach, reads: good skater, competes hard, adds some sandpaper to the American Hockey League team’s lineup.
In other words, Macenauer fits right in.
“He adds to the puzzle nicely,” McCambridge said after practice. “Hoss (Riley Holzapfel) is a good player, and did some really good things for us, but when you look at balance among your forwards, it’s a better balance with Maxime.”
Macenauer, 23, arrived from the Anaheim Ducks organization last week in exchange for Holzapfel. The product of Laval, Que., started the season with the Ducks, appearing in 29 NHL games (goal and three assists) before he was reassigned to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch (four goals, six points in 13 games at the time of the trade) when Anaheim found itself languishing in the standings.
A third round draft pick (63rd overall) by the Ducks in 2007, Macenauer was close to cracking the Ducks’ opening-night roster last season, but was one of the final two cuts.
In Holzapfel, the IceCaps lost a serviceable winger, although the early line has Anaheim pulling off a steal as Holzapfel has two goals and seven points in four games since joining the Crunch.
“When I look at how he (Macenauer) fits in,” McCambridge said, “he’s in an area where we have a real good balance. We’ve got a good top six group of forwards, and he’ll play a third, fourth-line penalty killing role.
“He slots in very well.”
The IceCaps, who are back in action tonight against the Hamilton Bulldogs at Montreal’s Bell Centre (the Bulldogs are the Canadiens’ farm club), continue to lead the Eastern Conference and are battling for top spot for the overall league lead.
And in doing so, St. John’s has not a single player in the top 10, 20, 30 or even 40 in league scoring. Rather, Spencer Machacek and their best player, defenceman Paul Postma, are tied for 47th overall with 37 points apiece.
“I think I’m a good two-way kind of guy,” Macenauer said. “I’m strong on the puck, a good skater. Hopefully I can help on PP and PK.
“There’s always little disappointment after you’re traded, but there’s great spirit around Winnipeg, and the same here. And we’ve got a great chance to go far in the playoffs.
“This is a new start for me.”
Macenauer was in the QMJHL with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Shawinigan Cataractes, when the St. John’s Fog Devils were in operation. But he never did get to play at Mile One Centre as a junior because each time the Huskies or Cataractes visited, he was injured.
Macenauer was a member of the Cataractes when they went to Game 7 of the QMJHL final before losing to the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
The IceCaps continue their seven-game road trip tonight — St. John’s played in Hamilton and Toronto last weekend, Macenauer’s first two games, returned home for four days of practice before hitting the road again — followed by a pair of games in Binghamton and one each in Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
It marks the start of a gruelling month of March, when St. John’s plays 15 games, nine of those on the road.
“Based on where we sit in standings, I like our lineup,” McCambridge said. “We try to get better every day ... we’re not sitting back and getting comfortable. We’ve got a real tough stretch of games ahead, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We can’t look too far ahead.”
Ben Maxwell, who did not play against Toronto last Saturday, was wearing a no-contact red shirt in practice this week, and is listed as day to day. So is John Albert, who has had concussion-like symptoms. Albert skated before practice this week and all signs, according to McCambridge, were positive. Jason Gregoire also skated this week and is listed as day to day. He’s missed the past six games with a shoulder injury.