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Articles that are feature stories.

Superstitious Gudlevskis Making Most of Opportunities

By Jeremy Houghtaling

A few days after registering a shutout in his American Hockey League debut, Kristers Gudlevskis returned to the ice with a different look.

The mask emblazoned with blue stripes and the outline of a lightning bolt that he wore in his first three wins of the season was nowhere in sight as Gudlevskis dawned a more comfortable plain white helmet for Syracuse Crunch practice Tuesday.

Like his mask, Gudlevskis is back to a blank slate. His 22-save shutout over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers is history, and it's time to move forward.

Prospect of the Week: October 29, 2013

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 October 29, 2013 is … Kristers Gudlevskis, G (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).

Latvians sure know how to make an entrance.

Lightning goaltending prospect Kristers Gudlevskis announced his presence in the AHL Saturday with a 22-save shutout against Bridgeport. His impressive debut earned him our Prospect of the Week award.

Defenseman Taormina a Valuable Asset for Crunch


By Jeremy Houghtaling

It’s tough for Matt Taormina to sit out.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman, who battled an injury throughout the team’s run to the Calder Cup Finals last season, was not pleased that he had to be scratched from the lineup earlier this month.

"I probably could have waited another week or so (to return), because that's what the doctors had said," Taormina said. "But after the first game, and being around the guys in practice and stuff like that, I felt that I could get back at it earlier than they thought."

Seeing Taormina sit out was equally as difficult for Crunch coach Rob Zettler. Taormina has become an integral part of the blue line for Syracuse since his arrival last season, and the 27-year-old veteran's calm, patient demeanor comes in handy in all situations.

2013-2014 Preliminary Rankings

Written by Pete Choquette

Today we are releasing Bolt Prospects’ 2013-2014 Preliminary Rankings. Our rankings of the top 30 prospects in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization again reflect the bounty of what we consider to be the golden age of Lightning prospects. That depth is finally breaking through at the NHL level in the form of the seven rookies that made the Lightning's 2013-2014 opening night roster – six of which are included in our rankings. More impressively, none of those six prospects made the top three of our list, meaning the best is still to come. That's why it's no stretch to suggest the Lightning have the best prospect depth in the NHL today.

Prospect of the Week: October 24, 2013

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 October 24, 2013 is … Henri Ikonen, W (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL, Canada).

We didn’t plan on having a repeat winner just five weeks into the prospect season, but Henri Ikonen give us no choice.

The Lightning’s sixth round draft choice in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, Ikonen had eight points in two games last week. The energetic winger had a goal and three assists on Friday night in Kitchener then added two goals and two helpers the next night in Owen Sound. He has registered a point in every game this season, and has at least two points in his last six games. Three of those six games were 4-pointers.

Bigger, Stronger Namestnikov Settling In as No. 1 Center

By Jeremy Houghtaling

After spending most of the offseason putting on 15 pounds of muscle, Vladislav Namestnikov is starting to see the results.

The second year Syracuse Crunch center, who trained in the summer with Joe Neal at 2SP Elite Athletic Development in Michigan, has used his new-found mass to register six points in the first five games of the season. He's adjusting to his new role as the team's top center, but at 6-feet, 185 pounds, Namestnikov is still working to get bigger.

"I think I got a little faster, and in the corners I'm winning more battles," the 20-year-old said. "It's good."

Crunch coach Rob Zettler believes Namestnikov is being rewarded for playing to his strength.

Crunch Adjust to Tampa Bay Personnel Moves

By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch lineup still has a few question marks heading into a home-and-home series with the Binghamton Senators this weekend.

With Brett Connolly called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Charles Landry and Maxime Langelier-Parent sent to ECHL Florida on Wednesday, the Crunch are down to 19 skaters -- 12 forwards and seven defensemen.

Although Syracuse is unsure if Connolly will return by the puck drop at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday, Crunch coach Rob Zettler has confidence in the forward lines he assembled at practice Thurday, which included moving Evan Rankin into Connolly's spot with Tanner Richard and Geoff Walker.

'MLP' Waits for His Opportunity

By Jeremy Houghtaling

With almost as many surgeries as games played in the last year, Maxime Langelier-Parent is focusing on the things he can change.

The Florida Everblades forward, sent down from the Syracuse Crunch Wednesday, was held to three games with the ECHL Everblades last year after undergoing surgeries on his hip and lower back. Despite signing AHL pacts with the Crunch in 2012 and 2013, the Montreal native is still waiting to make his American league debut.

"It's not something I control," Langelier-Parent said after practicing with the Crunch Tuesday. "So I'm just trying to do the best I can with the stuff I can control -- working out in the gym and on the ice, and just getting used to the pro hockey lifestyle."

Prospect of the Week: October 16, 2013

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 October 16, 2013 is … Nikita Kucherov, W (Syracuse Crunch, AHL, USA).

Thank you, Patrick Roy.

One of the most underrated pieces of Lightning news in the past 15 months is Patrick Roy, then general manager of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, drafting young Nikita Kucherov out of Russia in the CHL Import Draft.

Sergeev Steps Up for Syracuse

By Jeremy Houghtaling

It was an eventful weekend for Artem Sergeev.

The Syracuse Crunch defenseman notched his first professional goal in a 5-1 rout of Rochester on Saturday, then followed it up with his first professional fight against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Simon Despres on Sunday.

"It was actually pretty quick off a faceoff, (Brett) Connolly did a great job winning the draw right to my one-timer side," Sergeev said of his power play goal. "I didn't hesitate."

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