NHL Notebook: Canadiens defenceman Arber Xhekaj out indefinitely after fight with Vincent Desharnais, Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin steps away to tend to family matter, and more

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
Days after dropping the mitts with Edmonton Oilers defenceman Vincent Desharnais, the Habs have announced Arber Xhekaj is out indefinitely.
Xhekaj was hurt late in the fight throwing a punch that didn’t land. He appeared to hurt his right shoulder, or something nearby as he swiftly skated off the ice and to the Canadiens locker room.
This season, Xhekaj has been one of the best stories in the league. The undrafted 20-year-old came into Habs training camp and earned himself a full-time spot on the roster. He’s appeared in 51 games this season scoring five goals and 13 points.
Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Colton Davies wrote about him:
Xhekaj made the jump to the NHL this season following a remarkable journey that saw him grind through the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) as an undrafted prospect. He joined the Kitchener Rangers organization in 2018 on a free agent tryout and quickly made an impact as a physical presence. In October of 2021, just as the OHL season was ramping up, Xhekaj signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Canadiens. He blew the rookie camp away and was invited to the main training camp. During the 2021-22 OHL season, he was dealt to the Hamilton Bulldogs to help them on their run to the Memorial Cup. While unsuccessful, Xhekaj posted 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 18 games to help the Bulldogs capture the OHL championship.
The 22-year-old made his NHL debut on Oct 12, 2022, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That night, he became the first player in NHL history to have a surname beginning with the letter X. He scored his first NHL goal against the Dallas Stars on Oct 22nd. Xhekaj made his mark on the NHL when he fought and obliterated longtime tough guy Zack Kassian in what was Xhekaj’s first NHL fight. With a number of injuries plaguing the Canadiens, losing Xhekaj puts a hole in the blue line. However, Chris Wideman will slot into the lineup.

Ovechkin steps away

The Washington Capitals will be without captain Alex Ovechkin for the foreseeable future after the club announced he would be stepping away from the team.
According to a release Tuesday, the Capitals said Ovechkin is stepping away to “attend to a family matter and health of a loved one.” Ovechkin will miss Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, and there’s no timetable for his return.
Ovechkin hit the 800 goal mark this season and through the 54 games he’s played in, has scored 32 goals and 54 points.

The latest on Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard continues to tear up the WHL.
Bedard has appeared in 39 games this season with the Regina Pats scoring 48 goals and as many assists with his 96 points being a staggering 20 more than any other player in the league. He also leads the league in goal scoring, eight up on Kai Uchacz in second place, while his 48 assists are third to Ben Zloty (Winnipeg Ice, 53) and Logan Stankoven (Kamloops Blazers, 49).
Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis wrote about Bedard.
After having one of the best World Junior Championship performances ever seen, No. 1 prospectConnor Bedard (1) kicked off his WHL return with 11 points in his first two games. He’s now up to 31 points in 11 games, with three five-plus points and three 10-plus shot efforts. With 96 points in 39 games, Bedard is in a heavy race with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Jordan Dumais for the first to hit 100, with Dumais leading the way with 98 points in 47 games. Not only is Bedard 20 points clear of anyone else in the WHL, but he’s on pace for 140 – something no player, regardless of age, has managed to do in the 21st century. Bedard’s talent knows no bounds.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

Check out these posts...