During a five-game winning streak, things weren't always bound to be so smooth for the Cleveland Monsters this year.
The team found that out over the weekend, as a squad without forwards Kole Sherwood (with the Blue Jackets) and Trey Fix-Wolanksy (lower body injury) and defenseman Adam Clendening (also with the Blue Jackets) lost a pair of games over the weekend to Laval.
Of course, the big news involving the Monsters over the weekend was the move to send goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to the team and recall Matiss Kivlenieks. The move was done to get Merzlikins some playing time after the 25-year-old rookie started just three games and played in four over the first month of the NHL season.
"We just had a really good opportunity to get Elvis some minutes," Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said. "It was a really good situation with the games in Cleveland -- (goalie coach Manny Legace) was staying back anyway - with the schedule still being spread out to help the kid there to get him some minutes."
Merzlikins started the Friday night game against Laval and stopped 28 of 30 shots, but it wasn't enough as the visitors took a 2-1 victory in Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Josh Brook's unassisted goal with 10:13 to play proved to be the difference.
The returns were positive on the Merzlikins' front, though, as all indications were his play gave the Monsters a chance to win.
"He played a really good game, I got reports -- an outstanding game for Cleveland," Tortorella said of Merzlikins, who was recalled Sunday. "It gives him a chance to see some pucks in game situations instead of seeing it every two, two-and-a-half weeks."
Paul Bittner got the lone goal for Cleveland in the game, with assists to Calvin Thurkauf and Andrew Peeke. The Monsters put 25 shots on goal in the game against Rocket goalie Cayden Primeau.
A night later, the offense issues were even more stark as Cleveland was shut out; Laval, meanwhile, won its sixth straight in a 4-0 blanking of the Monsters. Charlie Lindgren got the shutout, stopping 25 shots in the Rocket cage.
"As we said to the boys after, in these types of stretches when you play five (games) in eight (days), sometimes you run into an energy problem," Monsters head coach Mike Eaves said. "We stuck our nose in there and tried to compete all the way until the end. We just didn't have enough in the tank."
Meanwhile, Cleveland started Finnish rookie goalie Veini Vehvilainen, who stopped 25 of 27 shots before Laval scored a pair of empty-net goals. Merzlikins appeared to tweak something late in the Friday night game, so he was held out as a precaution, Eaves said.
"He would have played tonight but he had a little bit of a minor setback last night," Eaves said. "They just wanted to make sure (he was OK)."
Cleveland had started the week with its fifth straight victory, a 5-3 triumph at Grand Rapids on Wednesday morning. Stefan Matteau scored twice, including an empty-netter, while Zac Dalpe's shorthanded goal 9:47 into the third broke a 3-3 tie and served as the winner.
The Monsters actually scored three shorthanded goals in the game, a franchise record. Matteau's first tally came on the penalty kill, as did Eric Robinson's goal. Clendening also scored, while Matiss Kivlenieks -- called up to Columbus after the game along with the veteran defenseman -- had 23 saves to improve to 6-1-1.
At 8-5-0-1, Cleveland has fallen to fifth in the North Division. Through 14 games, Gerbe leads the team with a 3-8-11 line, while Dalpe and Matteau each have five goals.
Jackets head to international tourneys: The second weekend of November led to international play across the pond, with Blue Jackets prospects Marcus Karlberg (Sweden) and Kirill Marchenko (Russia) joining their U-20 national teams for the Four Nations Tournament in Helsinki.
Each team played three games in the round robin tournament that also included Finland and the Czech Republic. Continuing a run of solid showings while with his national team, Karlberg - a 2018 third-round pick -- had a goal and an assist in the three-game event.
Meanwhile, Marchenko -- a 2018 second-round pick -- had an assist but played in only two of the three games.
Goaltender Daniil Tarasov, a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, also competed internationally, suiting up for the Russian B squad that played in the Germany Cup. Russia earned an overtime win over Slovakia, a shootout win vs. Switzerland and a loss to the German squad. Tarasov started the two wins, giving up five goals combined in the two games.
OHL standouts: It was also a good week to be a Blue Jackets prospect in the OHL, as Tyler Angle, Liam Foudy and Eric Hjorth continued strong seasons.
For Foudy, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft, he now has scored a point in every game this year after missing the first few weeks of the season with an upper-body injury. The London Knights speedster had three goals and two assists for five in two games over the weekend vs. North Bay and Owen Sound, upping his total line to 7-7-14 in nine games this season.
Foudy also has a mean 'stache going for the month of Movember.
Angle, meanwhile, got good news when he was added to the OHL squad that is taking part in the CHL Canada/Russia series, which matches up some of the top junior talent in the world.
The seventh-round pick in this past summer's draft has a 10-10-20 line in 14 games so far this season with the Windsor Spitfires. He was named as an injury replacement to the OHL team that will take on Russia today in London.
Hjorth, who was chosen in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, is off to a solid start with Sarnia with five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 17 games. He had a goal and an assist Friday vs. the Soo Greyhounds.