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Arber Xhekaj: only two penalty minutes in six games with the Rocket
A few weeks ago, the Canadiens took the hockey world by surprise when they sent Arber Xhekaj to Laval in the AHL. The surplus of defensemen got the better of him, and while he was injured, Jayden Struble took his chair, as they say.

Or as Martin St-Louis would surely say, at the very least.

Yesterday, Arber Xhekaj played his sixth game for the Rocket. He did so in a 3-2 win over the Crunch in Syracuse… and it was a good game for the Habs’ club-school.

The good thing is that, in the last few days, we’ve felt a progression on the part of the club-school. The Rocket lost Xhekaj’s first two games in the AHL(including the first, when the Ontarian didn’t perform well), but things have been looking up since then.

In its last four games, the Rocket has won three times. Two of these were on the road, bringing the club within three points of the playoff picture in its division.

And while WiFi isn’t THE player responsible for everything, there’s no denying his impact.

Yesterday was a good example. He played police in front of his goalkeeper’s net and the defender wasn’t attacked. His opponent preferred to attack someone else to avoid facing the Sheriff.

This goes some way to explaining why Xhekaj has only been given two penalty minutes in six games… which is very little compared to his habits. Obviously, he’s feared and that’s part of the equation.

But his only two minutes, which came in a 7-1 thaw, also shows that he hasn’t often been caught cheating. And for a guy sent to the AHL to work on his defense, that’s good news.

Xhekaj, who has three assists in six games, has only two games in which he’s had a negative differential. We’re talking about his first game, which was horrible from an individual point of view, and the 7-1 loss to Laval last Saturday.

The other four games, with a young team that’s no AHL powerhouse? He’s not in the red. That’s positive, isn’t it?

(Credit: The AHL)

Of course, with Jordan Harris expected to return to action at some point in Montreal and Gustav Lindstrom likely to return to the waivers (at least that’s a possibility), Xhekaj will have to work hard to earn an NHL call-up.

Unless injuries take their toll once again?

In bursts

– He needs to give more.

– It’s never easy.

– The case continues to be the talk of the town.

– The club needs to get back on its feet.

– Nothing less.

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