TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Luke Witkowski to a two-year contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Witkowski, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, appeared in 38 games as a captain with the Western Michigan University Broncos in 2012-13, recording two goals and 10 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes while being named Second-Team All-CCHA. He led the Broncos with 53 blocked shots and ranked second for penalty minutes. Witkowski also added two power-play tallies.
A native of Holland, Michigan, Witkowski played in 152 games during his four-year career at Western Michigan. He accumulated seven goals and 38 points with 235 penalty minutes. He won the 2010-11 Bill Saunders Plus/Minus Award for finishing with the Broncos’ best plus/minus rating at plus-13.
Prior to attending Western Michigan, Wikowski played for the Fargo Force and the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL. He amassed nine goals and 26 assists in two USHL seasons. Witkowski was named to the 2009 USHL All-Star Team.
Witkowski was drafted by the Lightning in the sixth round, 160th overall, of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since being drafted he has attended four Lightning Development Camps.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Tanner Richard to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Richard, 19, has skated in 52 games this season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, recording 11 goals and 62 points to go along with 94 penalty minutes. The 6-foot, 183-pound forward ranks first on the Storm and ninth in the OHL in assists with 51 and was third on his team with a plus-18 rating. Richard also played in five postseason games against the Kitchener Rangers, registering three assists and six penalty minutes.
The Jona, Switzerland native has appeared in 95 career OHL games, all with Guelph, collecting 24 goals and 110 points with 140 penalty minutes. He also represented Switzerland at the 2013 IIHF World Jr. Championships in Russia, posting four assists and plus-two rating in six tournament games.
Richard was originally drafted by the Lightning in the third round, 71st overall, of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Crunch only get 1 point out of a Norfolk weekend. Bad.
Riku Helenius allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the loss. Hard to get mad at him when he got zero goal support. Former JYP mate (and really good player) Sami Vatanen with the dagger, too.
NOR Vatanen, (8) (Wilson, Smith-Pelly), 7:21
NOR Mitchell, (10) (Smith-Pelly, Wilson), 4:52
Syracuse did outshoot Norfolk 41-27, but they're missing their best finishers with so many callups to Tampa Bay. They have to be hoping/wishing/praying for someone like Lecavalier to come off the IR quickly.
It's now a 4-way tie atop the Eastern Conference with Springfield, Providence, Syracuse, and Binghamton all tied at 87 points. Providence holds 1 game in hand on the Crunch and Springfield holds 2.
8 games remain in the regular season. 6 of those 8 contests are in Syracuse starting with a matchup against Hershey on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Bolt Prospects' Mike Gallimore made it out to Lightning practice today and had the chance to chat with new Bolts coach Jon Cooper. Some notes:
* Cooper said Cory Conacher's limited minutes last night weren't punitive. He thought Conacher played well and noted Cory created a couple scoring chances.
* Conacher's and Pyatt's ice time got clipped due to Cooper's decision to go heavy with a couple lines, especially Killorn-Stamkos-St. Louis.
* Cooper volunteered that - despite 89's hot start - Conacher is still an unfinished product at the NHL level.
* The Lightning did a number of situational drills today, with particular emphasis on puck retrieval and zone exits.
* Cooper noted that the team is in flux and it's going to take time, but felt the team rebounded well after first period of "throwing pucks up the wall."
* Cooper praised new Lightning prospect Andrej Sustr for his debut. He said Sustr kept earning additional shifts. Cooper was impressed with how calm Sustr played in his NHL debut.
* Cooper was excited when talking about Alex Killorn. He said it took Killorn about 10 games last year in Norfolk to figure out the pro game - and then Killorn took off.
* Cooper said Killorn has been instrumental on the top line as puck retriever for St. Louis and Stamkos.
* The team scrimmaged 4-on-4 today. Cooper said it served as a fun activity, but also that he believes in preparing thoroughly for non-5v5 situations.
Third Period collapse in Norfolk.
Riku Helenius allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for the loss. So much for getting over the .900 save percentage line. No wonder the Lightning are rumored to be trying to sweet talk Bratislava into letting Jaroslav Janus come back.
SYR Connolly, (27) (Jacques), 3:51
SYR Neilson, (1) (Gauthier, Wyman), 17:07
NOR Maroon, (19) (Bonis, McMillan), 19:46
SYR Hutchings, (3) (Cote, Namestnikov), 18:59
SYR Sexton, (7) (Brown, Wyman), 0:10
NOR Smith-Pelly, (11) (McMillan), 0:50
NOR Wagner, (7) (Pelley), 2:46
NOR Maroon, (20) (Guenin, Vatanen), 8:49 (PP)
NOR Maroon, (21) (Sarault, Vatanen), 1:41 (PP)
I've said it many times, a 3 goal lead in the final frame in pro hockey is supposed to be a death sentence. When you cough up a lead like that, it lingers like a bad stench for a while. When you cheat the reaper like Norfolk did, it can propel you.
The news is bad with Bingo and Providence winning tonight. The Crunch now are tied with the Bruins and tied in points (and in their division) with Binghamton. Rematch with Norfolk tomorrow night. 9 games are left in the regular season, and every single precious point matters now.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Famine in Zettler's debut.
Riku Helenius allowed 1 goal on 14 shots for the loss. That's his second 1-0 loss in recent weeks, I believe. That just stinks for a goaltender.
RCH Schofield, (7) (Girgensons, Biega), 19:18
Zettler is being assisted by Martin Raymond and ex-video coach Brian Garlock. Brian Lee made his debut for the Crunch after being sent through waivers by the Lightning. Syracuse actually outshot Rochester 38-14 in the contest.
Syracuse now heads to Norfolk for a 2 game set on Friday and Saturday. They hold a scant 1 point lead on Providence in the conference with 10 games left in the regular season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for March 27 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA).
Undrafted and undersized, Tyler Johnson has been huge for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
One night after being shutout, the Syracuse Crunch were glad to be right back on the ice.
The Crunch jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, added another in the second, and held on for a 3-1 win over the Albany Devils at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday night.
With the win, Syracuse paces the league with 86 points, two ahead of Binghamton for the Eastern Conference lead and one ahead of Texas in the Western Conference.
"We weren't going to let what happened last night happen tonight," said Syracuse forward Dan Sexton. "That's what makes good teams good -- they respond and they don't lose two in a row."
Still hanging onto first place.
Riku Helenius allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He came within 54 seconds of a shutout before Albany's power play goal. Still, with the effort tonight, Helenius has finally managed to get his save percentage back to .900 for the season. He had a good February and is having a good March, which the Lightning have to hope leads to a good Option B for Syracuse come playoff time.
SYR Namestnikov, (5) (Gauthier, Jacques), 13:39
SYR Sexton, (6) (Wyman), 14:25
SYR Brown, (10) (Wyman, Sexton), 14:00
ALB Anderson, (13) (Whitney, Gelinas), 19:06 (PP)
Dan Sexton, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Helenius were the game's three stars. Namestnikov's strong play in March also has to have the Lightning extremely happy. We at the website can't wait to see him and Nikita Kucherov lined up together, which could happen this season depending on how the QMJHL playoffs go.
With Providence going down to Worcester, Syracuse holds a 2 point lead on Binghamton for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Springfield and Providence lag by 3 points. Syracuse gets Rochester next on Wednesday, and with just 11 games left in the regular season every point matters from here on out, as it could be the difference between being 1 seed or a 4 seed.
6 of Syracuse's remaining 11 games are at home, including a nice 5 game homestand to close out the regular season. Also, 6 of the 11 games are against teams that currently would not make the playoffs, although the team they have the most games left with, ironically Norfolk, is just 2 points out of 8th in the East.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Even with a familiar face in the opposition's net, the Syracuse Crunch tried to focus on the two points up for grabs.
Former teammate Dustin Tokarski stole the show, turning away 40 shots between the pipes for the Hamilton Bulldogs to hand the Crunch a 1-0 loss at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday night.
"It's the same two points," said Crunch goaltender Riku Helenius. "Obviously, I wanted to win today, but it didn't happen…Even when you play against your friends, it doesn't change things."