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Articles that are feature stories.

Gudlevskis Returns to Syracuse With Renewed Focus


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Even after one of the biggest performances of his young career, Kristers Gudlevskis tempered any excitement with perspective.

The Syracuse Crunch goalie made 55 saves, as Latvia nearly stunned Canada in the quarterfinals of the winter Olympics in Sochi late last month. The Herculean effort earned Gudlevskis praise worldwide.

But in his first practice back with the Crunch Tuesday, Gudlevskis was back to focusing on the task at hand.

"It was only one game," Gudlevskis said. "So I need to show everybody I'm really consistent every game all season long. I think only then I'm going to prove myself."

BP Mailbag: 3-3-14

The BP Mailbag returns after its own Olympic break (the Games aren’t going to watch themselves and multi-tasking is a challenge when hockey is on).

The questions, please…

@Jayslightning79:
@BoltProspects Would you part with Namestnikov for a Dmen like Alex Edler #BPMailbag

The Canucks’ Alex Edler, a 27-year-old defenseman, is rumored to be on the trading block. With the trade deadline on Wednesday, speculation is picking up steam.

Edler fits a lot of criteria for what I think the Lightning should be looking for: 300-plus games played, puckmover, second-pair capable, and power play contributor.

He also has good size (6-3), which Yzerman likes in a defenseman. There are a lot of things to like.

However…

Bolt Prospect of the Week: February 25, 2014

We continue our Bolt 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 February 25, 2014 is … Kristers Gudlevskis, G, Team Latvia (IIHF).

Kristers Gudlevskis cemented his place as our Bolt Prospect of the Week about halfway through the second period of Latvia’s Olympic quarterfinal game against the eventual Gold medalist, Canada.

When a goalie is “on,” he is said to be “standing on his head.” Gudlevskis was running a marathon on his head while juggling rusty chainsaws. His 55-save performance in a 2-1 loss was the talk of the latter half of the Olympics and the Lightning’s 2013 fifth round pick provided Canada its biggest scare of the medal round. Canadiens’ All-Star goalie Carey Price, who opposed Gudlevskis in net for Team Canada, called Gudlevskis’ performance the best he’d ever seen.

Compliments don’t come better than that.

Richard Learning Lessons in Rookie Season


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Tanner Richard remembers the view of the bench as much as the goal.

After accepting a pass from Cedric Paquette on a 2-on-1 and burying it for his first professional goal last month, the Syracuse Crunch center felt joy and relief. It took 46 games, but the drought was over.

“It definitely took a while - a lot longer than I hoped for,” Richard said. “It was pretty special for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team so excited for a guy like that. After the first 20 games, everyone was pulling for me and trying to get me that goal.”

Like many players, Richard’s rookie season has been full of firsts.

Namestnikov Adds NHL Experience to Development Path


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Vlad Namestnikov received the unexpected news earlier this month.

The Syracuse Crunch center went through a range of emotions when he learned he would be making his National Hockey League debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning Feb. 8.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Namestnikov recalled. “Nerves, excitement -- everything together.”

During the first 31 games of his sophomore season, Namestnikov accumulated 13 goals and 30 points to earn the look from the Lightning. Despite already eclipsing his rookie season output of 28 points in 62 games, the first step onto the NHL ice seemed imposing.

“The first period I just couldn’t believe I was there,” Namestnikov said. “Everything seemed so fast and everyone was so big.”

Prospect of the Week: February 17, 2014

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 February 17, 2014 is … Brian Hart, W, Harvard Crimson (NCAA – USA).

For the third consecutive week a collegiate player is our Prospect of the Week. This week the honor goes to Harvard’s Brian Hart, a second round pick (53rd overall) of the Lightning in 2012.

Hart, a 6-3 212-pound forward out of Phillips-Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, had two goals and an assist this week to raise his season point total to 12 (four goals) in 25 games. The Maine native had a goal in Monday’s 6-2 Beanpot Consolation Game win over Boston University and followed that up with an assist in a 1-0 upset win over Clarkson on Friday. He finished his weekend with a goal in a 2-2 tie against St. Lawrence on Saturday.

BP Mailbag: 2-14-14

Need some reading material for the Olympic break? Cartoony Newman is here to help with this week's mailbag.

@sheehandave:
@BoltProspects What are the odds of Adam Erne making the team next year? Might he replace Ryan Malone? #BPMailbag

Well, step one there is Ryan Malone, who has one more year left on his contract with a $4.5 million cap hit. His actual owed amount is “only” $2.5 million, but he also has a limited No Trade Clause. He can submit a 12-team list of teams to which he’d accept a trade. Last June CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Lightning were trying to trade Malone and even offering a draft pick an enticement for someone to take him. Obviously there were no takers. There were also rumors that the Lightning had him submit his 12-team list after his limited clause kicked in on July 1. It’s possible they could buy him out this year, but with one year left, is it worth it?

Prospect of the Week: February 10, 2014

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 February 10, 2014 is … Matt Peca, C, Quinnipiac Bobcats (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca was one of the best-kept secrets in the NCAA until his natural hat trick last year in the East Regional Finals.

As the 2013-2014 collegiate hockey season got underway, much was expected from the junior forward. He was coming off an excellent post-season and regular season in which he had 15 goals and 15 assists. Many thought Peca would challenge for the Hobey Baker as the NCAA’s top player, but Peca found himself in a little different role.

What to Expect from Vladislav Namestnikov

The Lightning recalled center Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Friday. Gudlevskis was recalled on an emergency basis due to an injury to Ben Bishop.

According to the Lightning’s press release, Namestnikov, 21, has skated in 31 games this season with Syracuse, posting 13 goals and 30 points to go along with 19 penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on the team for points and assists. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native also ranks tied for first on the Crunch for power-play goals with six. The 6-foot, 183-pound forward has skated in 75 career AHL games over the past two seasons, all with the Crunch, recording 20 goals and 51 points.

He was originally drafted by the Lightning in the first round, 27th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft.

Crunch Rookie Paquette Climbing the Charts


By Jeremy Houghtaling

At the beginning of the season, Cedric Paquette classified himself as a third line center.

A defensively responsible forward that plays with an edge, Paquette knew where he was likely to find ice time. But with injuries and call-ups constantly shuffling the Syracuse Crunch lineup, the rookie has found a home where he didn’t expect — on a scoring line.

Paquette has seen spot duty on the top line, but has spent most of the season on the Crunch’s second unit. Forty-five games into Syracuse’s season, the 20-year-old leads the team with 14 goals and is tied for first with 30 points.

“He’s quickly found his way up the charts,” said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. “He just does a lot of really good things. Above all the things he does well, he’s a competitor. He plays hard every night, and that’s why he’s been successful.”

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