On Friday, the Canadiens announced that forward Corey Locke had been returned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. Locke made his NHL debut during Tuesday night’s game against Chicago, playing just under six minutes and finishing at minus-1. But he was a healthy scratch on Thursday in Boston with the return of centre Bryan Smolinski.
In Sunday’s Gazette, John Meagher reports that Locke has reported with a good attitude – and his equipment – and is eager for another chance with the Habs.
Locke holds head high after demotion to AHL
It’s difficult to make a lasting impression in one game – especially when you only get six minutes of ice time.
But Corey Locke prefers to see his cup of coffee with the Canadiens as half full after making his National Hockey League debut in last Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre.
“Obviously, I wish I was still up there, but it’s a numbers game now,” Locke said Friday after he was returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens’ affiliate in the American Hockey League.
Locke’s No. 45 sweater quickly went back into storage in Montreal after veteran Bryan Smolinski returned to the Habs lineup, having recovered from a knee injury.
“The (Canadiens) have got healthy bodies now, so it’s tough to get in their lineup,” Locke said.
Playing at the raucous Bell Centre on Tuesday and watching hockey legends Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita honoured before the game provided Locke with memories to last a lifetime.
“It was pretty cool to be a part of that ceremony,” said the 23-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont. “It’s a memory I’ll have forever. There is an unbelievable atmosphere in that building.”
During his cameo appearance against the Hawks, Locke managed one shot on goal, was a minus-1 and went 2-for-5 on faceoffs.
“I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of ice time, but you always want to play as much as possible,” he said. “I thought I played well when I did. I was alright on faceoffs and wish I could have that minus back. But I think I created some things offensively when I was out there.
“At least I got into a game. You’ve got to take the positive out of it. It was great, though. I always wanted to play in the NHL. It’s been my dream growing up.”
Locke was selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round (113th overall) at the 2003 NHL entry draft after winning the Ontario Hockey League scoring title with the Ottawa 67s. His 63 goals and 151 points also earned him Canadian Hockey League player-of-the-year honours.
After scoring a goal and adding an assist during Friday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch, Locke is Hamilton’s leading scorer this season with 30 points in 35 games
But despite helping the Bulldogs win a Calder Cup last year and becoming the farm team’s all-time leading scorer with 185 career points (67-118) in 269 career AHL games, Locke has never impressed the Habs brass enough for a closer look – until very recently.
The 5-foot-9, 171-pound forward was recalled by the Canadiens for the first time in his career on Dec. 30 – after captain Saku Koivu fell ill. But in a rotten stroke of misfortune, Locke’s hockey equipment never arrived in New York, so he couldn’t suit up. A disappointed Locke was returned to the Bulldogs on New Year’s Day.
He was delighted to find out he’d been recalled by the Habs again last week, along with goalie Jaroslav Halak, after Carey Price and Kyle Chipchura were sent to Hamilton for polishing.
Now that he’s had a taste of The Show, Locke would like another chance to impress Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey.
“Getting called up a couple of times means you’re getting recognized,” Locke said. “It’s a good sign and I want to get called back up as soon as possible. But a lot of it is out of your control.”
Locke returned to Hamilton by car Friday.
“And I brought my equipment with me,” he said, laughing.