The Ottawa Senators don’t have a lot to play for over the next few games, but that’s not true of the Belleville Senators. The AHL club is battling for a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs, but will have to do it without the benefit of a pair of defensemen. Maxime Lajoie will undergo sports hernia surgery and has been ruled out for the rest of the year, while Erik Brannstrom is dealing with an upper-body injury and has been listed as “week-to-week” according to Kyle Bukauskas of Sportsnet.
Lajoie, 21, was an unexpected contributor for Ottawa this season, playing 56 games with the team after impressing in training camp. Originally a fifth-round pick of the team in 2016, he found his footing at the AHL level in 2017-18 and came into camp with something to prove. Seven goals and 15 points later, the young defenseman was sent down to the minor leagues just before the trade deadline in order to keep him playoff eligible in the AHL. Unfortunately he suited up just three times for Belleville and now faces an eight to ten week recovery period.
Brannstrom meanwhile was the jewel of the Mark Stone trade earlier this year and impressed the organization right away. Making his NHL debut on March 14th, he ended up playing in two games for Ottawa and was held scoreless. His nine games for Belleville went a bit better, but he’ll now have to wait a while to get back into the lineup. The super talented defenseman is likely ticketed for a full-time role in the NHL next season, but competing for a Calder Cup would only serve to benefit his development.
Belleville currently sits just two points ahead of the Cleveland Monsters for the last playoff spot in the North Division, and unfortunately has played in two more games than them. With just seven games left it’s not clear if Brannstrom will get back in time to help them at all, or if he would even be ready for the first round of the playoffs.