WINNIPEG – They weren’t the prettiest goals but Guillaume Desbiens hopes they’ll get his season back on track.
Desbiens scored twice—one a pinball shot off of two defenders on an attempted pass, the other into an empty net—to lead the Manitoba Moose over the Abbotsford Heat 5-3 in American Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.
“The ‘ole pool shot—going bank to bank,” a relieved Desbiens said on his first score that turned out to be the winning goal. “It was a little bit of a lucky goal.
“I’ll take it. I needed it.”
It’s been a strange season for the 25-year-old forward from Alma, Que.
Desbiens made the Vancouver Canucks out of training camp, the parent club brass loving his big body (six foot three, 213 pounds) and physical presence that goes along with it, but things quickly turned sour.
Desbiens broke his thumb in a fight in just his 12th game, putting him on the shelf for an eight week period. When he was finally healthy enough to play the winger found himself back in Manitoba, only to find his timing had suffered.
After scoring in his first game back with the Moose on Dec. 17, Desbiens went 14 games without finding the score sheet—a scoring drought that was starting to wear on him.
“After that I kind of lost the way I was playing,” said Desbiens, who scored 40 goals for the Moose the last two seasons. “I had a good talk with (Manitoba head coach Claude Noel) about 3-4 games ago and since then I’ve focused on what’s made me successful.”
That meeting—a frank discussion that revolved around being more physical, finishing checks and playing hard in the tough areas of the ice—was the gentle reminder he needed, Desbiens added.
“He was right, I wasn’t physical enough,” he said.
Noel was pleased to see the third-year Moose forward start to find his stride again.
“He scored two goals but a lot of his game was controlled by his physical play,” the Moose coach said. “When you’re into the game like that (physically), it results in different things.”
Garth Murray, Mark Flood and Shawn Weller also scored for Manitoba (25-12-6), which finished up an eight-game home stand with a 5-1-2 record. Josh Meyers, Jon Rheault and Cam Cunning replied for the Heat (21-19-6).
Moose goaltender Tyler Weiman made 29 saves for Manitoba and pushed his personal win streak to six games. Heat goaltender Leland Irving made 20 stops for Abbotsford.
The Moose were 1-for-5 on the power play while the Heat went 2-for-4.
Manitoba also saw a pair of roster moves Sunday.
Defenceman Lee Sweatt was called up to the Vancouver Canucks before the game to take the place of Kevin Bieksa, who was injured in the Canucks’ 4-3 shootout loss to Calgary on Saturday.
Sweatt has five goals and nine assists in 41 games with the Moose.
To make some room for Sweatt, the Canucks sent down Moose leading scorer Sergei Shirokov (33 points) Sunday. The Russian forward scored one goal in two games with the parent club.
Notes: A crowd of 8,509 took in the action at MTS Centre. . . Moose forward Cody Hodgson returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with a orbital bone injury.