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Last night, Arber Xhekaj didn’t look like a guy who wanted to play in Laval.

Arber Xhekaj was traded to the Laval Rocket earlier this week. His return to health wasn’t enough to guarantee him a place in Martin St-Louis’ line-up, and he was sent down.

Publicly, he said all the right things. He said he was going to work on his game and all the usual clichés.

But me, in life, I take it and leave it with the words because it’s easy to just talk. What I was anxious to see was how he would respond on the ice.

And let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Kent Hughes, who was there, certainly wasn’t either.

Yesterday, against Belleville, Arber Xhekaj really didn’t stand out. He didn’t really give the second effort in situations where it might have been necessary. Maybe it’s because he’s been told he only has to play defensively?

Note that I’m not worried about the fact that he refused to fight with Bokondji Imama. Maybe fighting would have brought out the bad guy, but he’s not a token goon either, you know.

One wonders if, as Georges Laraque said, the CH did indeed break him via Martin St-Louis’s comments. One wonders if, by sending him down without giving him a power play and making him play with Brady Keeper, it discouraged him a little.

I can tell you that in Place Bell yesterday, the buzz around Xhekaj was not positive. His disinterest was marked and let’s just say that Norman Flynn captured the essence of the young man’s game very well afterwards on RDS.

Having said that, we can nuance the whole thing a little.

Is it normal to see that the first undrafted defenseman in history to make the jump directly to the NHL without going through the minors is disappointed? You know as well as I do that it is.

Is it normal that he needs a few days to digest it all? Probably, yes.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Rocket played a game that I would describe as pathetic. The 5-2 defeat (their eighth in a row) was really heavy, and the guys just weren’t up to it.

A pass on the puck? A shot with bite? Discipline? A breakthrough at the opponent’s net? A solid check by someone other than Nathan Légaré? None of these things existed yesterday.

It’s easy to see why the club is in last place in its division.

But even so, seeing the Sheriff play the way he did still bothers me. He didn’t stick his nose in traffic when it was time, and it looks like he took staying back too much to heart not to get caught out defensively.

His non-verbals spoke volumes, I thought.

While the decision to send Xhekaj down was undoubtedly a thoughtful one, and surely what’s best for him, the CH must be looking forward to seeing him become the 2022-2023 defenseman again.

Because yesterday, he wasn’t the Xhekaj we knew. He’s capable of better than that, and when he recovers from his tough week, I think he’ll be all the better for it.

In short

– To your questions.

– Notice to interested parties.

– An excellent first step for the Yankees.

– Enjoy your reading.

– Ouch.

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