The Aeros (31-22-4-4) played just two games last week, splitting a pair of matches against the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary) and San Antonio Rampage (Florida).
They took half of the available points with Mikael Granlund back in the lineup. He contributed with a pair of assists, and looked very good on the power play. The Aeros showed no signs of a letdown because of Chay Genoway's trade to the Capital's organization.
As an Aeros fan, it is frustrating to lose guys like Genoway and Matt Kassian, but Fletcher and Co. in St. Paul made the moves for roster flexibility. The smart fans know that could pave the way for some younger talent in Houston as the junior seasons start to wind down.
Against Abbotsford, the Aeros were 14 seconds away from a shutout and dominated the first period, racing out to a one-goal lead on Brian Connelly's first of two goals. After the puck-moving d-man made it 2-0, Abbotsford called a timeout and dominated the rest of the game.
Darcy Kuemper was both lucky and very good to lead the Aeros to two points.
The following night in San Antonio, the Aeros wasted a 2-1 lead late in the second period, and Stephane Veilleux' unsportsmanlike conduct penalty paved the way to a 5-on-3 goal that eventually held up as the game winner.
The Aeros need Veilleux' grit, but he's been up and down recently. He has not been on the plus side of the scoresheet in consecutive games since his arrival. Overall, though, the team has played well since he and Jake Dowell arrived. They've been very good at times, and have held down the fort since Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker were recalled on what now appears to be a permanent basis.
Speaking of grit and toughness ...
With Matt Kassian gone to Ottawa, the Aeros will have to rely on Dowell and Ryley Grantham to be the enforcers. Drew Bagnall will add to that list when he returns from an apparent injury suffered on March 1 at Abbotsford.
Also, David McIntyre missed the last four games, but reports indicate that he is skating again. He is a key piece to the Aeros run at the postseason, so it'd be nice to get him back sooner vs. later.
Kris Foucault, Joel Broda and Jarod Palmer are all out with long-term and undisclosed injuries. It is unknown as to how long they will be out of commission. Brett Bulmer, however, did return against San Antonio after missing 12 games.
And now for more on last week's player of the week, defenseman Brian Connelly:
Connelly scored two goals, including the game winning goal, in the Aeros 4-1 win over the Heat on the 14th. But that isn't really the only reason he deserves to be singled out for this "award".
Connelly returned back into the Aeros line-up on March 1st, after missing 21 games with a serious shoulder injury. Despite missing almost half of the season, Connelly is sitting at 3rd on the team with points (28). With Chay Genoway being traded last week, Connelly became one of the few veteran defenders left on the team. His dominating play against the Heat helped propel the Aeros into a victory despite losing a very solid part of their defensive core.