Drouin, Jonathan

AHL Game Night: 11-8-13 Crunch at Admirals

Two good teams squared off in a familiar place. Syracuse won this round.

SYR-2
NOR-1

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 24 shots for the win. He's unbeaten. He has a sub-2 GAA, and a save percentage of .924. I wouldn't be in a rush to return him to the Coast once Helenius is back up to speed, which begs the question of what the Lightning will choose to do with either Riku or Cedrick, if anything.

First Period
SYR Brown, (4) (Cote, Sergeev), 1:53
NOR Whitney, (4) (Steckel), 14:29

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
SYR Kucherov, (12) (Namestnikov), 17:58

Nikita Kucherov and Gudlevskis were the game's first and second stars. In my mind, the Lightning have an obvious dilemma coming up next season. By the time we roll into training camp next year, it's going to be fairly obvious that Jonathan Drouin, Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov will be ready for Tampa Bay. Opening up 3 spots in Tampa Bay will be very challenging.

Norfolk's had a strong start to the season, so this was a high-quality win for Syracuse. The two teams are now tied with 17 points heading into the rematch at Scope tomorrow. Syracuse is now 1 point back of the top spot in the East Division and 2 points back for the Eastern Conference lead after a slow start to their campaign. That's not bad considering the lack of a consistent second line and the lack of consistent play on the backline. Wait 'til Zettler gets those pieces in shape.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-28-13 Lightning at Panthers

Closing arguments.

FLA-5
TB-3

Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 21 shots for the loss. I don't think there was any big goaltending controversy to begin with, but this pretty much seals it that Ben Bishop will be the number one going into the season.

First Period
3:45 TB Stamkos, (St Louis, Drouin)
7:41 TB Connolly, (Gudas, Panik)
11:33 FLA Boyes, (Versteeg, Kulikov)

Second Period
1:19 FLA Gomez, (Huberdeau, Campbell)(PP)
5:25 FLA Winchester, (Goc, Kulikov)

Third Period
2:02 TB St Louis, (Stamkos, Salo)
11:22 FLA Versteeg, (Kopecky, Barkov)
19:00 FLA Versteeg, (Campbell, Gilbert)(EN)

Steven Stamkos was the game's third star.

Widespread speculation is the final roster spot may come down to Brett Connolly and Jonathan Drouin. Drouin played 11:48 and got himself a helper while Connolly played 12:38 and tallied his 4th goal of the preseason. That's strong stuff for Connolly.

Meanwhile, the Palat/Johnson/Panik line, which looked like a lock to make the team, didn't do themselves any favors by being on the ice for 3 Panthers goals.

Final cuts are expected some time soon. I don't envy Yzerman and the coaching staff on this one.

Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-24-13 Lightning at Predators

Offense stifled in Lightning's first defeat of the preseason.

TB-1
NSH-2

Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:48 NSH Moser, (Clune)

Third Period
14:47 NSH Klein, (unassisted)
19:14 TB Stamkos, (Drouin, Brown)

Nashville's an outstanding defensive team, and they absolutely shut down the Lightning tonight. You can't beat a goaltender as good as Pekka Rinne when you're not putting any pressure on him for full periods. I dare say the team missed the presence of the Palat/Johnson/Panik line's energy tonight.

The big development from a roster standpoint was Jonathan Drouin getting a bump to 15:50 of ice time with higher quality linemates, as the audition moves forward into a very key juncture of the preseason. There was also key audition minutes for Mark Barberio (21:47) and Andrej Sustr (24:18) as they try to lock up a spot on the team. My opinion remains the same, Sustr will have to lap Barberio and Aulie to make the team given Barberio and Aulie's waiver eligibility. So, it's a tough road for the big offensive d-man. The ice time tells you the Lightning are giving it a long look, though.

Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-21-13 Lightning at Panthers

The big boys help keep the Lightning perfect in the preseason.

TB-5
FLA-4 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 29 shots, but did stop 3 of 3 for the shootout "W".

First Period
3:08 TB Malone, (Hedman, Stamkos)
10:34 TB St Louis, (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)

Second Period
9:40 FLA Gudbranson, (Kulikov)(PP)
11:15 TB Brown, (Salo)
12:10 FLA Kulikov, (Gilbert, Kopecky)(PP)

Third Period
4:14 FLA Butler, (Kopecky, Trocheck)
12:35 TB Stamkos, (Carle)
19:02 FLA Butler, (Gudbranson, Kulikov)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Droin
FLA- NONE

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone were the game's first and second stars.

Rightfully, youngsters like Brett Connolly have been getting a lot of attention for their play in camp and preseason. Tonight was a reminder that, oh yeah, #91 is still the cat's pajamas. Shaky goaltending from Bishop does merit some concern, but sitting at 4-0-0 in the preseason is nice no matter how you slice it.

Now that the Lightning have run their 4 games in 4 nights gauntlet and made their first two rounds of cuts, the roster is starting to crystalize. Tonight was an opportunity to evaluate, in particular, a bubble player like Dana Tyrell, who got 16:10 of ice time. There's still another round of preseason games to go next week, so nothing is set in stone, but if the roster had to be finalized tonight, I think the team would have some painful decisions to make. Here's how I might set the 23-man roster and lines:

Malone/Stamkos/St. Louis
Killorn/Filppula/Purcell
Palat/Johnson/Panik
Pyatt/Thompson/Crombeen
Labrie/Connolly

Hedman/Salo
Carle/Gudas
Brewer/Aulie
Barberio

Bishop
Lindback

I have a hard time seeing Jonathan Drouin's spot on the team right now given how well Palat, Johnson, Panik, and Connolly have played. It's not that he couldn't play in the NHL this season, it's that there may not be any need to rush him into the show with so many other young players looking ready to step up. There's still a batch of games next week, so there's certainly time for Drouin to make a more definitive statement, but right now I think he's lagging those four other prospects. A veteran like Tyrell also looks to be on the outside looking in.

On defense, waiver eligibility and contractual particulars mean Andrej Sustr would probably have to lap Aulie and Barberio to make it to opening night. No, not beat them by a few car lengths. He'd have to lap them to make it. My guess is the Lightning will roll with that seven in the first half and hope they can do the job. If they can't, they have a more seasoned Sustr as an option to call up and perhaps a healed Brian Lee to give a shot to, as well. If they're in the hunt around the deadline, defense is obviously where Yzerman's attention is probably going to go to.

Of course, one injury here or there completely upsets the apple cart, which is why I should emphasize that there's still time in the process. A week can be an eternity at this time of year.

Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.

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