01/19/2013 3:14 PM
HAMILTON, Ont. – A sold-out crowd at Copps Coliseum and reinforcements from the Montreal Canadiens training camp are expected to greet the Toronto Marlies when they meet the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre said Friday the team expects to have forwards Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, Patrick Holland, Louis Leblanc and defencemen Mike Commodore, Frederic St-Denis and Jarred Tinordi back among the ranks for the ninth installment of the American Hockey League’s Battle of Ontario. Due to the heavy traffic expected for the game the Bulldogs announced that doors would open at 5:30 p.m.
Forwards Mike Blunden and Brendan Gallagher remain with the Canadiens, who begin their National Hockey League regular season Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s nice to be home and having a full building will make it even sweeter,” said Lefebvre, whose charges dropped their last three games, all on the road. “The guys have to realize the fans are behind us no matter what happens. We need to show them that we are going to fight to the end.”
The Marlies, who dropped a 4-2 decision on the road to the Binghamton Senators on Friday night, will also present a different lineup. Leading scorer Keith Aucoin was claimed off waivers by the NHL’s New York Islanders and forward Nazem Kadri, defencemen Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Korbinian Holzer and Mike Kostka and goaltender Ben Scrivens are among those still with the Maple Leafs.
“They are a very deep team,” Lefebvre said of the Marlies, who continue to lead the North Division. “It’s always tough to play against them. If you aren’t ready to play in those games then that’s a problem. Just to play the Marlies should be enough to get you going and wanting to win that game.”
The Bulldogs are 3-4-1-0 against the Marlies this season, but won the last meeting 2-1 at home on Jan. 8. The Bulldogs have three wins and an overtime defeat against Toronto at Copps Coliseum this season.
“Toronto is a team we have seen a lot of,” said Lefebvre. “We have played well against them here at home. We need to start piling up points, we need to get on a run. We need to climb up the standings.”
The Bulldogs are 13-20-1-4 for 30 points and remain at the bottom of the division and the Western Conference. After posting two wins and an overtime loss from Jan. 4 to 8, the team lost 5-2 to the Rochester Americans on Jan. 11 and dropped two games to the Abbotsford Heat, 3-1 on Tuesday and 2-1 in a shootout the following night.
“We had a stretch here we won two games and lost in a shootout and then we went to Rochester, where I didn’t think we played very well,” said Lefebvre. “We played well for a period and a half and I thought our second period there was one of our worst of the season. Maybe we can attribute that to the guys being anxious to know who would be going up to Montreal, but they need to learn to be professionals no matter the situation.”
With many of their regulars off to Montreal, the Bulldogs headed west with four newcomers in the lineup. In the opener, the Bulldogs were outshot 14-3 in the first period and trailed 1-0, but Tyler Murovich tied the game in his Bulldogs debut at 10:44 of the second, but Tyler Ruegsegger netted the winner 12 seconds later.
In the second game the Bulldogs outshot the home side 29-28, but Ruegsegger scored the deciding goal in a six-round shootout.
“The first game I thought we didn’t have legs, we just couldn’t get anything going,” said Lefebvre. “We couldn’t generate much of an attack. We generated four or five scoring chances and we scored a big goal, but they scored right away on the next shift and we got deflated right away. I thought we deserved to win the next game. We played well enough, but came up short in the shootout.”
Lefebvre said he was impressed with the play of his team with so many new faces.
“I thought the guys reacted pretty well. It’s tough when you can’t practice much. We had a pregame skate, but that was mostly to get the jet lag off our legs. The guys worked hard and gave what they had, it just turned out that they didn’t have much to give.
“In those kinds of situations it gives opportunities to other players and gave us a look at some of those callups we didn’t know much about. Those guys have to take advantage of those things.”
Lefebvre said the kind of roster change brought on by the end of the NHL lockout is part of the job of coaching in the AHL.
“At this level you never know what is going to happen. You can have an injury or two in your lineup, and if the NHL team has an injury or two, your lineup can change fairly quickly. We have to deal with whatever happens and we have to coach no matter what. We have enough players, we have two goaltenders and 18 skaters, so our job is to coach them no matter what name is on the back of the jersey.”