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Lehkonen: Creating chances, goals will come

On Friday night, Artturi Lehkonen will be looking to pick up right where he left off against the Rangers back in December

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

NEWARK - If Artturi Lehkonen can channel his scoring mojo from the Canadiens' last encounter against the New York Rangers, his extended scoring slump could very well be a thing of the past come Friday night.

When the two teams last clashed on December 1, Lehkonen scored twice, including notching the game-winner, in a convincing 5-2 triumph at the Bell Centre.

Goals have been few and far between for the 23-year-old winger since that standout performance three months ago, though. 

Video: NYR@MTL: Lehkonen beats Georgiev on odd-man rush

Lehkonen has put the puck in the back of the net just three times in the last 38 games and is currently riding a 26-game goalless drought dating back to December 29.

Following Thursday's practice at the Prudential Center, Lehkonen insisted that he isn't getting down on himself because of his scoring woes.

"I'm just playing my own game," explained the Finnish forward, who scored a career-high 18 goals during his rookie campaign in 2016-17. "It contains a lot more than just scoring goals, but of course everyone wants to score goals."

You'll recall that Lehkonen came ever so close to tickling the twine on Monday night in Newark, but was ultimately denied by goaltender Cory Schneider on a breakaway. 

Failing to capitalize on a golden opportunity like that might serve as added frustration for some players in a lengthy rut, but Lehkonen, who has seven goals and 24 points in 64 games, isn't going to let it play over and over again in his head.

"I can't do anything about that anymore," mentioned Lehkonen, when asked about the miss against the Devils. "I've just got to focus on what's going to happen, live in the moment and try not to think so much."

His good buddy Andrew Shaw believes that the former second-round selection is still playing good hockey and contributing to the Canadiens' cause even if goals have proven extremely hard to come by.

"Just because he isn't scoring goals, he's still going out there and competing and he's working hard. He's doing a lot of little things right," said Shaw, who registered his first career hat trick in the Canadiens' 8-1 win over the Red Wings in Detroit on Tuesday. "It's just that sometimes that's the way hockey is, you don't get the bounces. He's going to stick to it. He's going to keep working, competing, and I have a feeling it's coming very soon… Once you get that monkey off your back, the floodgates kind of open for you."

Video: NYR@MTL: Lehkonen scores second goal off turnover

Head coach Claude Julien shared similar thoughts with respect to Lehkonen offensive struggles so far this season.

"Defensively, even offensively, he has his chances. I think the biggest problem is that he hasn't been able to score. That's what's been frustrating for him. There isn't much to be done except to keep on encouraging him," explained Julien. "What I like about him lately is that he's started to create chances. When you start to create chances, eventually the goals are going to come, so we hope it will be soon."

For the veteran bench boss, however, Lehkonen is far more than just a scoring threat.

"He brings way too much to the table to focus solely on his production," stressed Julien. "There are many players on this team with less goals than him. He's very reliable late in games and against big lines on the penalty kill. He brings a lot. It's his offensive production that isn't satisfying to him, but we know he's capable of more, too."

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