|Leblond seeing more playing time down the stretch. |
Smart with the puck and eager to mix it up, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond is making a name for himself in these final games of the regular season. The hard-hitting forward was added to the lineup for the third straight game with the Devils set to host the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Letourneau-Leblond, who was scratched six straight times in January, was ready to play for the fifth time in eight games. Injuries kept him out of 19 contests this season, and he saw an eight-game stint in Lowell (AHL).
“He’s been skating, he’s good with the puck,” said Jacques Lemaire. “He doesn’t turn the puck over too many times; not in dangerous areas. He’s got a physical presence.”
Letourneau-Leblond’s feature-length fight against ex-Devil Cam Janssen
has been clocked as the League’s longest of the season. It was a high point for the Devils in their 1-0 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Said Lemaire: “I was watching the game (tape) and then the fight came on, I said, ‘Fast forward,’ he went fast forward, I said, ‘This fight lasts longer than normal fights – even in fast forward.’”
The 24-year-old rookie has had his sights set on developing a more consistent role as the season has gone on.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to accomplish,” Letourneau-Leblond said. “I try to be in the lineup more often than I’m out so I can help the team. Those things go together: If I help the team, I’m going to be in the lineup.”
He has made a difference in back-to-back games, first assisting on David Clarkson
’s goal in Toronto, then dropping the gloves with Janssen. Letourneau-Leblond believes he made an impact with the fight, though not as big as he hoped because it didn’t lift the team to a victory.
“I think I opened some eyes,” he said. “I think a lot of people saw that fight and my reputation’s going to build off that, I guess.”
It took some time for him to physically rebound.
“A fight like that takes you a couple of days to recover,” he said. “You don’t train to fight for two minutes, 45 seconds. It’s impossible. The next day, we had a day off so it was good for me to rest, but right now I think I’ve recovered."
The two-game body of work against the Maple Leafs and Blues might best demonstrate what Letourneau-Leblond is capable of contributing – a nice set-up one night, and a memorable fight the next. He has an assist in 19 games this season, and two helpers in 27 NHL appearances, overall.
“That’s exactly the kind of player I want to be,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been working on for the last year is to try to be a solid player on defense and try to bring some offense by being physical. Obviously, fight, protect my teammates – the physical play is always going to be a part of my game, for sure.”
The last thing on his NHL to-do list would be scoring his first goal. But he doesn’t hit the ice thinking about it.
“If it comes, it’s going to come,” he said. “I finish my hits, and when I get a chance I take the shot when I get it, otherwise I make passes. You can’t go on the ice thinking about scoring. If my last name was Parise or Kovalchuk, maybe then.”