In the wake of the rash of injuries suffered in yesterday afternoon's game in Boston, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced they recalled RW J.T. Brown and D Dmitry Korobov from Syracuse of the AHL. Brown and Korobov are two of the team's older, more tenured prospects in the system and both will look to get an opportunity to test their progress against NHL competition. Here's what to expect from each player:
Lightning fans should be a little familiar with J.T. Brown given he had a short 5-game stint with the Lightning in the 2011-2012 campaign after signing as a free agent out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Brown has exceptional speed, above average skill, and willingness to stick his nose in on the forecheck despite possessing a slightly built frame. He looked to have a spot in Tampa Bay heading into the 2012-2013 season before the lockout and injury problems took his career track on a detour. Playing in Syracuse, Brown has since adopted to more of a two-way role playing on a checking line with Mike Angelidis in last year's deep playoff run, and in a complimentary winger's role as his alter ego, "J.T. Brownov," playing alongside Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov on the Crunch's top line so far this year. His grit and heavy shot are assets on that line. Brown's selection may mean that Alex Killorn will slide over to center and also signals that Jon Cooper may choose a more defensive-minded, two-way approach to dealing with the team's post-Stamkos injury reality.
Dmitry Korobov (pictured) will be looking to get his first taste of NHL action after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2012. Prior to joining the Lightning organization, the Belarusian Korobov gained a significant amount of experience playing for Dinamo Minsk in Russia's KHL. Last year, Korobov played on the top-two pairings for Syracuse for much of the season, and with Syracuse's youth movement along the blueline he's taken on an even greater role this year with the Crunch. Standing at 6'3" 230 lbs, Korobov's most obvious assets are his size and strength. He does not shy away from the physical game and does enjoy pursuing the big hit. He also has underrated puck-moving skills as demonstrated by the 22 points he put up with Syracuse last year to go along with a very solid +20 rating. Like Radko Gudas, Korobov is a fan of the hip-check. Korobov's weaknesses are that his skating, while adequate, sometimes suffers from sloppy footwork in his stop-starts and pivots and like any young defenseman, his decision-making sometimes isn't 100% spot-on. With the Lightning's lack of depth at this particular position, and Mark Barberio and Keith Aulie already struggling to begin with, Korobov has a golden opportunity right now to move up the depth chart quickly and make his case to stay in the NHL.
Unfortunately, some real Stammergeddon in Boston.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He actually played quite well, which sadly will be overshadowed by everything else that happened today. With that said, though, goaltending just became that much more important for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
17:09 BOS Bergeron (6), (Eriksson, Krug)
17:29 BOS Paille (2), (Campbell, Bartkowski)
19:01 BOS Iginla (4), (Lucic, Krejci)(EN)
For those who missed it, Steven Stamkos ran into one of the goalposts behind Anders Lindback in the Second Period and broke his right tibia. He is out indefinitely and early scuttlebutt ranges from Stamkos being out until as early as February or as long as 9 months. In addition, Sami Salo and Keith Aulie also left the game with injuries. Shortly after Steven Stamkos was stretchered off the ice, Boston struck for 2 goals while the Lightning were still in a state of shock. Really, the game wasn't even secondary at that point, given everything that had transpired. It's a shame, because after a rough First Period the Lightning looked poised to possibly steal a point or two, but Boston remains a house of horrors for the club.
What happens next? How do you replace Steven Stamkos?
You don't. You don't replace one of the three best forwards in the league and the NHL's most consistent goal scorer. You can't. You invariably have to take an even more disciplined team approach to defense and you have to rely even more on your goaltending to try to help win games. Unfortunately, if Sami Salo is also down for any period of time, that's an even more difficult task to pull off.
How do you score enough goals to win?
There are four players, on the immediate roster, that will be counted on to step up. One, in particular, should be looked to the most. It's time for Teddy Purcell to become a star. Whether he moves to the top line or not, whether he stays at wing or moves to center, Teddy Purcell will be asked to become one of the offensive leaders of this team. Supporting his efforts, the Lightning need more goals from three youngsters who are capable of ~20 goals a piece, talent-wise: Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, and Tyler Johnson.
Who gets called up? How do lines shuffle?
There might be zero changes to the roster. There might be several. The Lightning have a high degree of flexibility, and also there are a lot of variables without knowing the degree to which Salo and Aulie are hurt. At forward, you could see the Lightning attempt to roll with what they have. Purcell and Alex Killorn have both played center in earlier lives and could conceivably slide back into that position. Expanded roles for Panik and Connolly could also be in the offing. If not, the two most obvious recalls would be Vladislav Namestnikov or Nikita Kucherov. Namestnikov, obviously, would be a 1-to-1 replacement at the center position. He's not a 1-to-1 replacement for Stamkos as a goal scorer though, as Namestnikov is more of a playmaker as a finisher. If a sniper is more desirable, Kucherov better fits the bill. Another, more improbable, option could be the emergency recall of Jonathan Drouin. Emergency recalls of junior players have been done in the past, such as when Calgary recalled Sven Baertschi a few seasons ago. The emergency recall rules are very narrowly defined in terms of when they can be used and very strict about when the recalled player must be returned to junior. An early read of the rules indicates it requires 2 players to already be up from the minors on emergency recall and that it requires the player to be returned to junior immediately once players get healthy again. With Pyatt already on IR, Stamkos about to go on IR, and Salo and/or Aulie possibly about to go on IR, there might be enough of a MASH unit developing to allow an emergency recall. However, the allowable duration of Drouin's recall would be questionable and the Lightning would also probably want to limit his emergency recall to under 9 games to avoid burning a year of his contract. So, recalling Drouin is probably a longshot at best, but in moments like this all options should be on the table.
On defense, with Matt Taormina currently injured, the outlook for recalls is bleak. The Lightning may well be stuck with increasing playing time for Andrej Sustr and/or Mark Barberio in the absence of any good alternatives. Were the injuries to be extreme enough, the Lightning could conceivably sign JP Cote to an NHL contract or consider cup-of-coffee auditions for the likes of Dmitry Korobov, but these scenarios seem less likely than the Lightning attempting to move forward with the defensemen they have.
How do the lines shake out? Again, there are a ton of options. My thought, upon further reflection, is Teddy Purcell almost has to go up to the top line to play with Martin St. Louis, whether that's with Filppula or Killorn at center or Purcell himself moving to center. From there, the second line almost has to become even more of a kid line, featuring Filppula, Johnson, or Killorn at center and likely featuring Connolly, Palat, or Panik on the wings. I don't foresee a return to the scoring line ranks of Ryan Malone, but we shall see.
Radko Gudas had 5 shots, 7 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:48.
Johnson had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:12.
Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 23:07.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:02.
Sustr had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:43.
Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 18:22.
In closing, in an attempt to cheer up our readers, I'll leave you with the tale of another injured center, who went on to found a hockey franchise in Florida, who was abducted from a hospital room in Boston. It's one of the funniest hockey stories ever told, and involves plot line elements like Bobby Orr, a broken hospital bed, and a block of smelly provolone cheese. It seemed oddly appropriate to be retold today. Enjoy, and get well soon, Steven Stamkos.
Still the kings of Norfolk.
Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout and the victory. After the game, Syracuse sent Kristers Gudlevskis down to Florida of the ECHL after Riku Helenius suited up for the backup role tonight.
SYR Namestnikov, (6) (Brown, Nesterov), 5:36 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (4) (Cote, Korobov), 10:25
SYR Tyrell, (3) (Angelidis, Walker), 11:13
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Paradis, Gauthier), 12:48
Can the Syracuse Crunch win games where Nikita Kucherov doesn't appear like a rash all over the scoresheet? They did tonight. Can they get secondary scoring? They did tonight. Can they keep shots and chances down and keep the puck out of the back of their net? They did that all weekend. They answered a lot of lingering questions about their own legitimacy as a team and, in the process, have taken over the top spot in the East Division. They're still 2 points shy of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on Manchester.
The Crunch move on to face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Two good teams squared off in a familiar place. Syracuse won this round.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 24 shots for the win. He's unbeaten. He has a sub-2 GAA, and a save percentage of .924. I wouldn't be in a rush to return him to the Coast once Helenius is back up to speed, which begs the question of what the Lightning will choose to do with either Riku or Cedrick, if anything.
SYR Brown, (4) (Cote, Sergeev), 1:53
NOR Whitney, (4) (Steckel), 14:29
SYR Kucherov, (12) (Namestnikov), 17:58
Nikita Kucherov and Gudlevskis were the game's first and second stars. In my mind, the Lightning have an obvious dilemma coming up next season. By the time we roll into training camp next year, it's going to be fairly obvious that Jonathan Drouin, Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov will be ready for Tampa Bay. Opening up 3 spots in Tampa Bay will be very challenging.
Norfolk's had a strong start to the season, so this was a high-quality win for Syracuse. The two teams are now tied with 17 points heading into the rematch at Scope tomorrow. Syracuse is now 1 point back of the top spot in the East Division and 2 points back for the Eastern Conference lead after a slow start to their campaign. That's not bad considering the lack of a consistent second line and the lack of consistent play on the backline. Wait 'til Zettler gets those pieces in shape.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Lightning organization goes as deep as the ECHL.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 26 shots (including a rare OT penalty shot) before stopping all 4 he faced in the penalty shot session for the shootout win. Since coming up from the Everblades for an injured Riku Helenius, Gudlevskis has put up a very respectable 3-0-0 record with 1 shutout, a 2.21 GAA, and a .914 sv%.
SYR Gauthier, (1) , 4:44
WBS Zolnierczyk, (6) (Sill, Despres), 12:39
SYR Nesterov, (2) (Kucherov, Namestnikov), 14:31 (PP)
WBS Ebbett, (4) (Letourneau-Leblond, Harrington), 13:56
WBS Ebbett, (5) (D'Agostino, Dumoulin), 12:47
SYR Rankin, (4) (Cote, Gauthier), 15:38
SYR- Richard, Kucherov
Nikita Kucherov and Danick Gauthier were the game's first and third stars. Gauthier always amazes me with his ability to chip in despite always seemingly being on the fringe between the ECHL and AHL. This was Danick's second game up from the Coast and, as usual, he found a way to contribute. Depth is a wonderful thing.
Syracuse heads back to familiar territory Friday and Saturday to play Norfolk.
Box score from TheAHL.com.