In what has become an annual tradition over the past couple of AHL hockey seasons, the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens) will be playing one of their regular season home games at the Bell Centre here in Montreal this Friday evening. It is a chance for you and the whole family to get tickets at a reasonable price (tickets start at $6) for a high quality hockey game.
In previous years the prospect of watching the Bulldogs was not all that appealing because the team did not boast many legitimate NHL prospects. This is not the case this season. The Hamilton side has many players with legitimate chances of playing eventually in the NHL. Young, mobile defenceman Yannick Weber has played on the team a couple of seasons and is probably the defenceman closest to making the NHL. He is an undersized defenceman who possesses good offensive skills, a great shot and will be looked at as a serious threat on the power play. 23-year-old Mathieu Carle is also making himself noticed with his improving play.
As for forwards, Hamilton has centreman Ben Maxwell who was called up by the Canadiens late last season and was with them throughout the playoffs, left winger Max Pacioretty is a power forward in the making, but has been set back by injuries, Swedish centreman Andreas Engqvist was at the Canadien's rookie camp this year, Ryan White was one of the last cuts from the Habs' roster this preseason and he made quite an impression with his combination of robust play coupled with offensive skills, acquired from the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Matt D'Agostini right winger Aaron Palushaj looks like the real deal, thought of as a thrown in component of the Jaroslav Halak trade Ian Schultz brings something to the organization that they dearly need: he is a tough guy who is not afraid to drop the gloves, and finally Russian Alexander Avstin is only 19-years-old and seems to have a big upside.
All this young talent plus previous NHL players like defenceman Alex Henry and goaltender Curtis Sanford are there as insurance policies in case there are injuries on the Montreal Canadiens.
That experience extends to the men behind the bench. The head coach of the Bulldogs this season is former NHLer (played 15 seasons for the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, and Chicago Black Hawks) and former assistant coach with the Atlanta Thrashers Randy Cunneyworth. His assistant coach Randy Ladouceur is also another familiar face and name as he was also a former NHLer (played 14 seasons with Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers) and former assistant coach with Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes and Hartford Whalers.
Once again (every game at the Bell Centre except for one has been against Binghamton) Hamilton's opponents this Friday will be the Binghamton Senators, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. You will recognize a couple of players on Binghamton such as forward Cody Bass and two former Bulldogs players in forward Corey Locke and defenceman Andre Benoit. Binghamton has played 9 games so far this season and has posted a 4-3-1-1. They are in 6th place in the East Division of the Eastern Conference.
The Bulldogs are coming off a run of successful seasons. Three years ago they won the Calder Cup and last year they made it to the semi-finals. This year through 10 games they are in 1st place in the North Division of the Western Conference and boast a solid 6-1-1-2 record. Forward David Desharnais is off to a strong start and is in the Top 10 in league scoring with 14 points. Pacioretty is right behind him with 12 points. Webber leads the team with 6 goals.
-Ticket Purchase: www.evenko.com
-Ticket Prices: $6.00, $14.00, $19.00, $22.00, $25.00, $29.00, $35.00, $39.00, $45.00, $49.00 (plus taxes and service charges)
-Game Time: 7:30 p.m.