The Syracuse Crunch's recent slide is the result of a myriad of factors.
After losing two straight games and six of their last seven, it is impossible for the Crunch to pinpoint one specific problem. With a little bit of everything to blame, the answers range from a mix of bad luck and tough opposition in net to defensive lapses and a lack of scoring.
“We just haven’t been playing the way we want to play,” said Crunch forward Tyler Johnson.
The Crunch hopes to remedy one of those problems, an absence of offense, by combining their top three point-scorers on the same line. With Tampa Bay Lightning prospects Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Brett Connolly practicing on the same unit, Syracuse hopes it becomes the team's slump-buster when Albany and Adirondack visit the Onondaga County War Memorial on Friday and Saturday.
Jean-Philippe Cote has changed in many ways since his brief stint in the National Hockey League seven years ago.
The defenseman's experience since has helped show him how to do his job better, and he might be even a little faster. But he knows his chances of a call-up have likely passed.
"Obviously, there's that dream still, but I do know my role," Cote said. "I know, compared to maybe five years ago, I'm not the next guy on the list (of guys being called-up)."
Instead, the 30-year-old has embraced his new purpose – being a leader and mentor on and off the ice for some of the Tampa Bay Lightning's top prospects with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
Danick Gauthier started the season as the odd man out.
With the Syracuse Crunch already loaded with talented forwards and further enhanced with players being sent down from Tampa Bay as a result of the NHL lockout, the rookie had trouble cracking the lineup.
Crunch coach Jon Cooper told Gauthier to expect to be sit out most nights, and the 21-year-old suited up for just 10 games in the first three months of the season.
"It was hard to be scratched almost every game, but I just kept working in practices, and I got a couple chances," Gauthier said.
"Every chance I got on the ice, I needed to make a good impression for the coaches," the Quebec-native added.
From The Windsor Star
Defenceman Slater Koekkoek wasn't about to miss a chance to make an early debut with the Windsor Spitfires.
Just hours after being dealt by the Peterborough Petes to the Spitfires Thursday for Michael Clarke and second-round picks in 2014 and 2015, the former Peterborough captain was on the ice for Windsor's 3-0 win over the Brampton Battalion at the WFCU Centre.
"I had no idea I was going to be a Spitfire, but I'm pretty thrilled," said the 18-year-old Koekkoek, who was a 10th pick overall in the first round of last year's NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was Windsor's last deal before Thursday's Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, but one that brought the club a cornerstone defenseman.
From FoxSports North
Adam Wilcox came to the University of Minnesota campus this fall for a job interview of sorts.
The freshman from South St. Paul was in a competition with junior Mike Shibrowski to become Golden Gophers' starting goaltender. For the first few weeks of the college hockey season, Minnesota coach Don Lucia played each goalie for one game a weekend to see how they handled certain situations.
But there was one game — and perhaps even one play — in October when Wilcox seized the starting job and made it his own.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie estimates his first National Hockey League assist came about 200 feet from the Phoenix Coyotes net.
The Syracuse Crunch forward, up for more than a dozen games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, had chipped the puck past defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and his linemates, Trevor Smith and Martin St. Louis, were off to the races.
It wasn't the prettiest play, but it got the job done.
"Just a simple play," Labrie said. "Keep it simple. That's my type of game."
In his sixth professional season, Labrie has had to grind out a career by doing a little bit of everything on the ice.
The Lightning had five prospects at the 2013 Under-20 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, and four came away with medals.
Here’s a look how each prospect fared, and what their future might look like.
Nikita Kucherov, RW, Russia
7 Games Played, 5-3-8, +4, 4 PIM, 21 SOG
While Kucherov may only remember his missed shootout attempt against Sweden in the semifinals right now, years from now will look at his Bronze medal and be satisfied with his play throughout the competition. Kucherov was arguably Russia’s best forward in the tournament, though Mikhail Grigorenko (Sabres) was the only forward named among the team’s three best by the coaches at tournament’s end. In the opinion of TSN commentator Ray Ferraro, Kucherov was the team’s best forward. He and Grigorenko were by far the most consistent and dangerous forwards for the Russians at the event, and the two were responsible for 14 points together.
Florida Everblades 6 vs. Greenville Road Warriors 4
F Alex Hutchings, FLA: 1-0-1, E, 4 SOG, 0 PIM
Season totals: 26 GP, 10-11-21, -1, 22 PIM
D Charles Landry, FLA: 0-1-1, -1, 1 SOG, 0 PIM
Season totals: 28 GP, 1-7-8, +1, 21 PIM
F Maxime Langelier-Parent, FLA: Did not play
Season totals: 1 GP, 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM
(Syracuse Crunch contract)
D Daniel Milan, FLA: 0-0-0, E, 1 SOG, 0 PIM
Season totals: 15 GP, 1-0-1, -1, 12 PIM
G Pat Nagle, FLA: Did not play
Season totals: 13 GP, 5-5-1, 0 SO, 3.47 GAA, 327 S / 371 SA (.881 SV%)
Florida managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat Friday night, scoring five third-period goals, capped off by Alex Hutchings' empty-netter, in a span of roughly fourteen minutes to stun divisional rival Greenville. Matthew Pistilli, newly acquired from South Carolina, scored twice in his return to the Everblades. Pistilli previously scored seventeen goals and eighteen assists for Florida over the course of thirty-eight games split between the 2010-2011 and 2009-2010 seasons. Andrew Yogan, the first Florida-raised player drafted (4th round, 2010) by an NHL team (the New York Rangers), opened the game's scoring for the Road Warriors. With his second assist in as many games, Landry now has his first point-scoring streak of the season. Hutchings returned to the scoresheet after going pointless in Florida's last three matches. Carolina G prospect John Muse backed up Rob Madore, who stopped twenty-four shots in the match, as Pat Nagle was inactive for the Everblades. Maxime Langelier-Parent, still recovering from an injury sustained early in the season, were inactive. Florida (15-12-6, 38 PTS) continues its road swing with a match against Gwinnett (23-12-1, 47 PTS), currently atop the South division standings, on Saturday.
Cory Conacher tries to not think about what could have been.
With the National Hockey League and the players’ association still working to resolve the lockout, the 5-8, 179-pound winger, who was expected to be a candidate for the Calder Trophy, knows that nothing is guaranteed.
"Even if the NHL figures it out and I get a chance to play in Tampa, I can't expect to be the best player and get all the points," Conacher said. "I have to do the little things that will help Tampa Bay win, and that's what is most important."
One season removed from hoisting the Calder Cup and being named the American Hockey League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player – the fourth player to achieve both in the same season – the 23-year-old Syracuse Crunch forward still doesn't take anything for granted.
It starts with the term "shutdown defenseman."
After that, Keith Aulie rattles off the rest of his responsibilities, memorized not in a mirror but through repetition on the ice.
"I try to go out there, play hard, finish my hits, make my first passes, be tough for their forwards to play against, kill penalties, and be consistent back there," Aulie said before taking a breath.
Likely set to at least challenge for a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning blueline this season, Aulie has taken his talents to the Syracuse Crunch during the NHL lockout. A team that has been near the top of the Eastern Conference in points and penalty minute leaderboard all season, the Crunch welcomed the 6-6, 229-pounder’s ability to log substantial ice time.