INSIDERS. It’s been a little bit. For practice lines and pairings, click here.
Let’s get caught up on the doin’s a transpirin’:
–LUFF, ACTUALLY. As confirmed by hockey operations, Matt Luff has been recalled on an emergency basis from AHL-Ontario, which means his roster move does not count among the four AHL recalls permitted after the trade deadline. As of today, the lone standard recall against the four was Kurtis MacDermid’s.
Luff didn’t appear in Friday’s 8-4 win over the San Jose Barracuda but did participate in the Saturday-Sunday split with Iowa, which makes today’s skating-heavy practice his own version of a three-in-three.
“A little tired, but any time you get called up, it’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m taking it as it comes and taking a few naps here and there.”
The Saturday game was the real gem as Ontario erased a three-goal deficit with 3:55 remaining, taking advantage of 27 of Mike Liambas’ 29 penalty minutes on the night by cashing in three times in five-on-four play and once again in four-on-three play, ending the game on Matt Moulson’s game winner, providing the statistically rare four-for-four, five-minute power play*.
“That could be one of the craziest things I’ve witnessed,” Luff said .”Down 4-1 with 4:30 left, to have a five-minute power play and score four times to win it was insane. The whole room and the whole mood on the bench was just ‘it’s time to make ‘em pay.’”
He’ll get a night off to recoup before facing the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at Staples Center. Though Luff is from Oakville, situated between Hamilton and Toronto in Ontario, both of his parents are natives of the Montreal suburbs, and he’d spend time in the city each summer. Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher are players a younger Luff was particularly fond of.
“My birthday present, every year, my parents would take me to a playoff game,” he said.
The Canadiens have missed the playoff in two of the last three seasons but have qualified in 29 of their last 38 and enter Tuesday’s game two points clear of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a game in hand in the battle for the final playoff spot in the East.
“I do think you can change things quickly. I’ve always admired Montreal,” Willie Desjardins said. “[Marc] Bergevin, he’s done an unbelievable job. Sometimes you didn’t know if you agreed with his moves, but it took lots of courage to make those moves, and if you look at it on paper now, they were good moves. He’s done a great job. I always respect people that’ll put it out there and just do what they think’s best for the team. So, when you look at ‘em, he kind of transformed it on the fly, and you’ve got to love the way they play. They play with lots of speed and lots of passion, and that’s the way the game should be played.”
*A rare example in which a major power play can be perfect is if it results in an overtime goal. If a major power play ends while the game is still being played, it can only be 0-for-1, 1-for-2, 2-for-3, etc, because there are still seconds remaining on the power play at its conclusion. Therefore, if a team scores two power play goals (and none in overtime) on a five-minute major, that goes into the statistics as 2-for-3. Moulson’s goal capped an incredibly rare 4-for-4 performance on Liambas’ major.
–AUST-IN LIMBO. Luff’s emergency recall was necessitated because Austin Wagner (lower-body) was injured in Saturday’s win over Chicago. Wagner, who has nine goals and 16 points in 49 games, didn’t skate Monday. “Probably [won’t play] in the next one, but he’ll be day-to-day,” Desjardins said. This home stand probably isn’t the prime target towards his potential return.
–MARTINEZ MENDS. Alec Martinez’s return appears imminent, even if Desjardins referenced “a chance” he’d play, deeming his probability of entering into Tuesday’s game as “probably 50-50.”
Martinez (upper-body) had been skating on his own to put himself in the position to be able to return quickly. It was shared on February 16 that he was expected to miss one-to-two weeks of action, and he returned to practice last Thursday but hadn’t yet been fully cleared for contact.
“Yeah, I’m getting close. I’ve been skating for a while, doing everything that I need to to get back,” he said.
It’s not exactly a blind coincidence that the team’s longest losing streak in nearly 15 years overlapped with Martinez’s absence. A key member of the club’s leadership committee, he’s among those whose voice and influence across the room has grown in passing seasons. There are obviously the 20 players that the team will go into battle with on any given night, but even while he was on the outside of that group, was he still able to assert his own message and encouragement behind the scenes.
“Not before a game, but I think there are different stages,” he said. “Sometimes you’re kind of on opposite schedules. That obviously kind of sucks because you feel like you’re not part of things. It’s tough when they were on the road and I was back here getting what I needed to get done, but “I’m still in constant communication with a lot of the guys, texting guys, calling guys. When you’re out, it’s not like you’re never around. I’m in the weight room with them, I’m pretty much everywhere but the ice until the very end. That’s just part of being a good teammate is you’ve got to be there for guys during certain times. I’d like to think I do that a little bit and I think we all need to do that.”
He’s also among those who set a good example to younger players through his game-day focus and preparation and his ability to practice the way he plays.
“All your leaders have to be ready to do that and willing to battle through things,” Desjardins said. “There are short routes and there’s hard routes, and he’s a guy that always takes a hard route. Like, he’s always a guy that battles through, he gets back as quick as he can, never cheats on his rehab and stuff like that, so he sets a great example for our young guys.”
For players like Matt Roy, Sean Walker and the rest of a younger Kings blue line, his presence amidst the twilight of a disappointing season provides the example-driven leadership that can instill good traits.
“Roysee’s [Matt Roy’s] a good old Michigan boy, so he’s got that going for him, like myself,” Martinez said. “I’ve been really impressed with him individually. He’s a really strong defensive player – he can make plays, he can skate and get up in the rush, and Walks, we’ve seen him obviously a little bit more than Roysee, but it’s no secret, he’s got a really quick two, three, four, five strides to get up into the play. He breaks up a lot of plays in the D-zone with his stick, sometimes his face. … He’s really good at that transition and gifted offensively. He scored the other night with a pretty nice shot on the power play. And then you have Dermie. I’ve played with him a little bit last year and I thought he played some really solid hockey for us the past couple games. He’s certainly a presence out there. He’s a scary dude. And then you throw Paulie in there, too, Paulie’s been doing it for us all year.”
For many people in sports who believe in superstitions, it is the type of record that you don’t talk about until it happens. Sounds weird but I think many people feel that way. https://t.co/LGUHLUVgQO
— Jim Fox (@JimFox19) March 4, 2019
–Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI