With his team looking to end a four-game losing streak, there’s a real good chance St. John’s IceCaps head coach Sylvain Lefebvre would at least have done some tinkering with his lineup as the IceCaps prepared for games against the Toronto Marlies tonight and Sunday afternoon at Mile One Centre.
As it turns out, circumstances mean there will definitely be significant changes.
A trade by the parent Montreal Canadiens Friday, two returns and a recall by the Habs on the same day and the availability of a couple of players who had been out with long term injuries means the IceCaps (16-13-8) will have a much different look as they face the league-leading Marlies (30-7-2) this weekend.
The trade saw the Canadiens sent defenceman Jarred Tinordi and forward Stefan Fournier, who had been with the IceCaps, to the Arizona Coyotes for forward John Scott and defenceman Victor Bartley.
Scott, 33, and Bartley, 27, who had been both been on AHL rosters this week, were initially assigned to St. John’s, although Bartley was almost immediately recalled by the Canadiens, who are still missing veteran rearguard Jeff Petry because of an injury.
With Scott not expected in St. John’s until late tonight, he won’t be available for the first matchup with the Marlies, but should be here for the follow-up game at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Whenever he arrives, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound winger is sure to attract attention, and not just because of his size.
For one thing, he was voted by fans to represent the Coyotes and be the Pacific Division captain for this year’s NHL all-star game, although it’s not yet known how his assignment to the minors would affect his eligibility to play in the all-star game.
There is also his reputation as one of pro hockey’s toughest tough guys, what with his 542 penalty minutes in 285 NHL games with teams — Minnesota, Chicago, New York Rangers, Buffalo, San Jose and Arizona — over the last eight season. And while he played sparingly in that time — with just five goals and six assists and frequent turns as a healthy scratch — Scott hasn’t appeared in a minor-league game since 2009. He was assigned to the Coyotes’ AHL farm team, the Springfield Falcons earlier this week, but did not play when the farm team.
Two players Lefebvre is counting on tonight are forwards Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto, who were sent down by the Canadiens Friday. Both bring plenty of speed and good offensive numbers from their times with the IceCaps earlier this season. Andrighetto had seven goals and nine assists in 18 games with St. John’s and a 4-1-5 line in 17 games with Montreal. Carr had eight goals and nine assists in 21 games with the IceCaps and five tallies and two assists in 17 games with Montreal in his first NHL call-up.
In making the move, the Canadiens have swapped quick feet for bigger bodies as they recalled six-foot-two forward Jacob de la Rose from the IceCaps
Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said he wanted the “heavier” de la Rose on his fourth line heading into games tonight in St. Louis and Sunday in Chicago. The Canadiens also expect to get a similar-size winger, Dale Weise, back after he missed four games with an injury.
Also returning from injury are a couple of rookies with the IceCaps, and Lefebvre is planning to have both left-winger Nikita Scherbak and defenceman Ryan Johnston dress for tonight’s game against the Marlies.
Scherbak hasn’t played since Nov. 13, when he was levelled by an open-ice hit by Marlies defenceman Viktor Loov in a game at Mile One Centre. While Scherbak has played in nine games with St. John’s (1G, 2A), Johnston has yet to appear in a professional contest as he recovered from back surgery in the fall.
Lefebvre said Johnston should see some time on an IceCaps power play that has had its struggles since defenceman Mark Barberio was called up to Montreal, and had Scherbak skating on a line with veterans Gabriel Dumont and Michael Bournival in practice on Friday.
However, with Carr and Andrighetto still to arrive, things would likely change, said Lefebvre.
“Those two are probably not coming down to be third-liners,” said the IceCaps head coach.
Tinordi was a hot prospect when Montreal made a deal with Arizona that saw them send a second-round pick to the Coyotes to move up in the draft and select him 22nd overall in 2010. But despite his size and pedigree, the son of former rearguard Mark Tinordi spent most of his time in the minors.
The 23-year-old, who played in only three games this season and has six assists in 46 career NHL contests, had fallen to ninth on the Canadiens depth chart on defence behind Barberio, but was kept in Montreal because the Canadiens didn’t believe he would clear waivers if sent to St. John’s, although he had played three games with the IceCaps on a conditioning stint earlier this season.
Bartley had begun Friday with the Nashville Predators organization, but was traded to the Coyotes for another rearguard, Stefan Elliott, before being flipped in the swap with the Canadiens. He played only one NHL game this season before being sent to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, but has one goal and 22 assists in 112 career NHL games, all with Nashville.
The 23-year-old Fournier split this season between the AHL and the ECHL, but had recently established himself as a regular fourth-liner in St. John’s, scoring five goals and adding two assists in 24 games for the IceCaps. His 65 penalty minutes were most on the team, so he provides the Coyotes organization with some of the toughness and willingness to scrap lost with the departure of Scott. It also added another NHL contract to the deal. Organizations are only permitted to have 50 NHL contracts in effect and often want to structure trades so that equal numbers of such contracted players are going back and forth.