The Montreal Canadiens had some good news at practice today. Both David Savard and Arber Xhekaj were present, which indicates they’re nearing a return to play.
In that vein, the Canadiens announced they have sent Xheakj to the AHL. He will join the Laval Rocket, a team struggling to produce results.
Les Canadiens ont retiré le nom d'Arber Xhekaj de la liste des blessés et ont cédé le défenseur au Rocket de Laval.
The Canadiens have activated Arber Xhekaj off IR and loaned him to the Laval Rocket.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 4, 2023
Before anyone panics, we have to keep in mind that Xhekaj has been away from play since November 16. The AHL assignment could simply be a conditioning stint for the rough-and-tumble defenceman.
Given the excellent play from Jayden Struble since his call-up, the Canadiens have the option to take their time with Xhekaj’s return.
It could also be a ‘paper move’ rather than a conditioning stint. However, in that case, the team would have to make another move before recalling him ahead of Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Regardless, the move gives Xhekaj a little more time to get up to speed while offering Struble an extended look in the NHL.
As it stands, Struble and Xhekaj are the only Montreal Canadiens defencemen who have managed to be on the ice for more than 50 percent of the team’s shots. It should also be noted that Xhekaj leads all Habs defencemen in expected goals for, with 53 xGF%.
In otherwords, Xhekaj has been playing quite well this season, at least relative to most of his teammates.
The Laval Rocket are having a very hard time.
Much like the Habs, they’re also going through an unfortunate streak of injuries.
They’ve won just five of their 20 games, and while a team loaded with young prospects is expected to go through growing pains, it’s fair to say the overall results in the AHL leave something to be desired. Top-scorer Joshua Roy, who enjoyed an excellent start to the season for the Rocket, is also suffering through a downtick in results. He has no points in his last six games.
Xhekaj’s presence should serve as a big boost for Jean-Francois Houle’s team, especially since they’ve looked worse than usual without Struble in the lineup.