Jones, Blair

Keller, McKenna Not Qualified

According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times, the Tampa Bay Lightning have chosen not to qualify restricted free agents forward Justin Keller and goaltender Mike McKenna.

Players receiving qualifying offers were defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin; forwards Martins Karsums, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and Lauri Tukonen; and goaltender Karri Ramo. Both Smolenak and Ramo have signed contracts to play in the KHL next season.

AHL Game Night 4/11: Admirals at Penguins

You get the sense Norfolk and the Lightning farm system has finally turned the corner.

NOR-4
WBS-3

Craig Kowalski allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory, including stopping 21 of 22 in a Katey-bar-the-door final frame.

First Period
WBS Henrich, (3) (Wallace, Jeffrey), 7:53
WBS Bissonnette, (9) (Daoust, Vitale), 8:30
NOR Sgroi, (2) (Buck, Simek), 10:47
NOR Smolenak, (24) , 15:59

Second Period
NOR Buck, (1) (Swanson, Simek), 6:13
NOR Jones, (20) (Lundin, Segal), 10:56

Third Period
WBS Vitale, (2) (Bissonnette, Lovejoy), 16:52

ATO Brandon Buck was the game's first star, with Kowalski and Blair Jones being named second and third stars respectively.

Jones capped a season in which he was an iron man playing all 80 games with his 20th goal. It's the first 20 goal campaign of his career. Mike Lundin got his 29th point, finishing just shy of the 30 point plateau.

Norfolk was the nastiest spoiler in the east in the final couple of weeks of the season. They knocked Binghamton out of the playoffs last night and they denied Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the division title in tonight's game. That's with a lot of ATO's playing on the team's lower lines and lower pairing. Impressive. Like I said last night, Darren Rumble is becoming a hell of a coach. We may see him in Tampa Bay some day. The Ads jump from 29 wins and 65 points a season ago to 33 wins and 75 points this season. Post mortem in the following days.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/7: Penguins at Lightning

This team could be incredible if Lawton could find some defense without blowing up some other part of the team.

PIT-6
TB-4

Karri Ramo allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Despite allowing 5 goals, he actually didn't play all that badly. Two of Pittsburgh's goals came on breakaways and a third came on an uncovered player allowed to move in on Ramo all alone down the slot. The game winning goal was a case where Ramo was clearly interfered with after stopping the initial shot on the breakaway. Another goal came on a feed that went through the box on the PP down low to give Sid Crosby a clean look on Ramo moving laterally. Other than Cooke's goal to start the third period, which wasn't a bad goal so much as an untimely one, there's nothing I would fault Karri with. The decision is the 41st of Ramo's career, graduating him from prospect status here at BP.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
05:00 PIT Fedotenko (16), (Staal, Kennedy)
10:08 PIT Crosby (31), (Malkin, Kunitz)(PP)
11:12 PIT Crosby (32), (Kunitz, Malkin)(PP)

Third Period
01:08 PIT Cooke (12), (Staal, Letang)
04:31 TB Halpern (6), (Szczechura)(SH)
08:59 TB St. Louis (30), (Stamkos, Krajicek)
09:43 TB Szczechura (4), (unassisted)
11:43 PIT Sykora (25), (Fedotenko)
19:19 TB Halpern (7), (Karsums, Bochenski)
19:47 PIT Staal (22), (unassisted)(EN)

I give credit to the coaches and the players that no one laid down in the third period. It would've been damned easy to quit, but the Lightning came back and really gave the Pens a run for their money. They were one missed goaltender interference call away from getting to overtime. So, the heart is there, and for the most part the offensive potential is there. What's really lacking right now is two things: defense and penalty killing. The defense will get better by virtue of a healthy Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger. The penalty killing can't possibly get any worse. I don't know the stats, but the PK has been absolutely rancid the second half of this season.

Ryan Malone broke his hand blocking a shot in this game, making him the fifth key Lightning player to be shelved with a serious injury. He had already proven that last year wasn't a flash in the pan by potting his 26th goal. I give him credit. He's won me over. The injury may open up an opportunity for someone from Norfolk to get a two game cup of coffee. Blair Jones? Justin Keller? Juraj Simek?

Lets go Avs.

Noah Welch had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13 against the organization who drafted him.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 hits in 9:58 and was 60% on draws. 9:58? Seemed like a lot more, in a good way. There are games where Konopka is nothing more than a circus clown, and then there are games like tonight where he plays hockey and he's a difference maker. He was a split second away from landing a shoulder-to-chin hit on Matt Cooke that would've made him a hero in Tampa Bay forever, and he about chewed the ends off the boards on the forecheck. Very well done.

Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:56. Tonight was Smaby's 41st game of the season, meaning he joins Ramo as a freshly minted Bolt Prospects Alumni.

David Koci had 3 hits and 17 penalty minutes in 6:00 of ice time. His fight against Eric Godard seemed like the emotional tipping point of this game. Again, very well done.

Paul Szczechura had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, and 4 shots in 16:00. He also was 33% on draws. I don't know what it is about Pittsburgh, but when Szczechura sees that jersey he seems to duck into the nearest phone booth and turn into Superman. I still don't think Szczechura is in his best shape, but he was flying tonight. That's the best game he's played in months, and the kind of game he needs to get on tape if he wants to make the team next season.

Martins Karsums had 1 assist, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:23. He was fairly invisible, despite the impressive stat line.

Matt Lashoff was -1 with 1 hit in 17:23. I don't know if he got hurt or if the coaching staff was sending a message.

Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:41. Mobility is obviously an issue with Vladdy, but his lack of decisiveness remains a bigger concern to me.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night 4/4: Phantoms at Admirals

Undermanned Admirals finish their home schedule with a tough loss.

PHI-4
NOR-2

Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss.

First Period
PHI Kane, (16) (Syvret, Ross), 0:42
PHI Curry, (5) (Clackson, Ross), 11:21

Second Period
NOR Zingoni, (6) (Jones, Segal), 2:32
NOR Jones, (19) (Lundin, Smolenak), 10:18 (PP)

Third Period
PHI Kane, (17) (Syvret, Ross), 5:17 (PP)
PHI Laliberte, (26) (Kane, Guenin), 19:59 (EN)

Blair Jones was named the game's second star with his 19th goal of the season. The knock on Blair has been his consistency and his defensive play. Still, he finds himself just one goal shy of the magic 20 plateau. I'm still hoping he gets a game or two with the Lightning before the end of the year.

Mike Lundin now has 27 points. 30 is a do-able goal for the former Black Bear.

The good news is that Albany got pasted by Binghamton, so the Ads and Rats are still tied in the race to see who will occupy the division basement.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night 4/1: Bears at Admirals

No quit in Norfolk.

HER-2
NOR-3

Craig Kowalski allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the win.

First Period
HER Bourque, (21) (Giroux, Kronwall), 0:51
NOR Jones, (18) (Konopka, Lundin), 14:55 (PP)
NOR Smolenak, (22) (Wishart, Segal), 16:36

Second Period
NOR Swanson, (1) (Wishart, Konopka), 10:48

Third Period
HER Giroux, (55) (Bourque, Kronwall), 1:01

ATO forward John Swanson, who was signed today out of St. Cloud State, potted the game winning goal in his first pro game and was named third star. Well played. Kowalski was the game's first star.

Radek Smolenak potted his 22nd goal of the season while Blair Jones inched closer to the 20 goal plateau by lighting the lamp for the 18th time this year. There are still questions about Jones' intensity, no doubt, but 20 goals has to make you stand up and take notice.

Ty Wishart returned to the ice for the first time in about three weeks and hit the scoresheet for helpers in duplicate for the first multi-point game of his pro career.

It kind of snuck up on me: but Mike Lundin has 26 points now in Norfolk. He has a very real opportunity to hit 30 points in about 50 AHL games with the Admirals. I know Darren Rumble really likes Lundin, but the question remains about how well he fits with what Rick Tocchet is trying to do in Tampa Bay. There's no doubt in my mind, though, that his time in the AHL this year has been beneficial to his development and some NHL team is going to reap the rewards next season with a better player.

Norfolk's win, its 30th of the season, and Albany's loss inches the Admirals within 1 point of climbing out of the division basement with 6 games to go in the season. The Admirals also improved to 20-14-4 on home ice with the victory. Norfolk's final two home games of the season are this weekend, meaning the worst the Admirals could finish on their home rink is 4 games over .500. However incremental it may be, there is progress in Norfolk, VA.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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