When the Montreal Canadiens assigned defenceman Arber Xhekaj to the Laval Rocket, the goal was putting him in a situation that would lead to big minutes, giving him crucial experience that would hopefully improve his defensive game.
Truth be told, Xhekaj leads all Canadiens defencemen this season in a multitude of important defensive categories, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Xhekaj has been a blessing for head coach Jean-Francois Houle. Not only have the Rocket improved their results since Xhekaj arrived, as evidenced by their impressive climb up the North Division standings, but other prospects have benefitted from his presence.
Logan Mailloux’s play improved to the point that he was invited to represent the Rocket at the AHL’s All-Star Game.
But given that it’s the AHL, placing a defenceman like Xhekaj in your lineup will guarantee a long list of potential opponents hoping to gain a little notoriety by fighting one of the toughest guys in the league.
Xhekaj, who has scored three goals and 11 assists in 16 games, has been invited to fight on multiple occasions, but he’s wisely turned down most bouts. He has nothing to prove against players who have little to no chance of making the NHL.
However, when the Rocket face their Divisional Rivals, the Belleville Senators, things can get nasty in a hurry. That was the case on Friday, with multiple fights breaking out during the Rocket’s 5-2 win.
The Sherriff dropped the gloves with Belleville forward Brennan Saulnier, and as you can expect, things did not go well for the 30-year-old centre.
Xhekaj’s fight last night seen from the stands 🥊 pic.twitter.com/d33FpQO67x
— HFTV (@HFTVSports) January 20, 2024
Xhekaj immediately placed his opponent off balance, leading to a barrage of right hooks that took their toll on Saulnier. The fight ended quickly, with Xhekaj slamming his opponent to the ground with the greatest of ease.
Full marks to Saulnier. He did not back down against a much stronger opponent, and he even threw a few punches, though most missed their target, resulting in an easy win for Arber Xhekaj.
Conseil d’ami: ne pas jeter les gants contre Arber Xhekaj
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) January 20, 2024