Danick Gauthier's expected stay with the Syracuse Crunch was one game.
Sent down to the ECHL Florida Everblades at the beginning of the season to find his confidence and improve his work ethic, the 6-2 forward was brought back earlier this month to temporarily fill a space in the lineup.
"He showed up and he played well," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "We thought we'd give him another chance and he continues to play well."
Gauthier has made the most of his latest opportunity. The 22-year-old registered three points in his first four games with Syracuse, and has earned a shot on the Crunch's top line alongside Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.
With JT Brown called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Syracuse Crunch started the process of finding a fill-in on the top line.
Cedric Paquette was the first to audition for the spot at practice Tuesday. The Lightning's fourth-round pick in 2012 certainly fits the mold - a gritty, defensively-responsible forward able to play on the left side.
"I like him because he goes in and he's a little bit dirty, as far as going into corners, getting pucks and digging out pucks," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler.
But Zettler didn't rule out trying out other players before a pair of home games this weekend.
In the wake of the rash of injuries suffered in yesterday afternoon's game in Boston, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced they recalled RW J.T. Brown and D Dmitry Korobov from Syracuse of the AHL. Brown and Korobov are two of the team's older, more tenured prospects in the system and both will look to get an opportunity to test their progress against NHL competition. Here's what to expect from each player:
Lightning fans should be a little familiar with J.T. Brown given he had a short 5-game stint with the Lightning in the 2011-2012 campaign after signing as a free agent out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Brown has exceptional speed, above average skill, and willingness to stick his nose in on the forecheck despite possessing a slightly built frame. He looked to have a spot in Tampa Bay heading into the 2012-2013 season before the lockout and injury problems took his career track on a detour. Playing in Syracuse, Brown has since adopted to more of a two-way role playing on a checking line with Mike Angelidis in last year's deep playoff run, and in a complimentary winger's role as his alter ego, "J.T. Brownov," playing alongside Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov on the Crunch's top line so far this year. His grit and heavy shot are assets on that line. Brown's selection may mean that Alex Killorn will slide over to center and also signals that Jon Cooper may choose a more defensive-minded, two-way approach to dealing with the team's post-Stamkos injury reality.
Dmitry Korobov (pictured) will be looking to get his first taste of NHL action after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2012. Prior to joining the Lightning organization, the Belarusian Korobov gained a significant amount of experience playing for Dinamo Minsk in Russia's KHL. Last year, Korobov played on the top-two pairings for Syracuse for much of the season, and with Syracuse's youth movement along the blueline he's taken on an even greater role this year with the Crunch. Standing at 6'3" 230 lbs, Korobov's most obvious assets are his size and strength. He does not shy away from the physical game and does enjoy pursuing the big hit. He also has underrated puck-moving skills as demonstrated by the 22 points he put up with Syracuse last year to go along with a very solid +20 rating. Like Radko Gudas, Korobov is a fan of the hip-check. Korobov's weaknesses are that his skating, while adequate, sometimes suffers from sloppy footwork in his stop-starts and pivots and like any young defenseman, his decision-making sometimes isn't 100% spot-on. With the Lightning's lack of depth at this particular position, and Mark Barberio and Keith Aulie already struggling to begin with, Korobov has a golden opportunity right now to move up the depth chart quickly and make his case to stay in the NHL.
Still the kings of Norfolk.
Cedrick Desjardins stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout and the victory. After the game, Syracuse sent Kristers Gudlevskis down to Florida of the ECHL after Riku Helenius suited up for the backup role tonight.
SYR Namestnikov, (6) (Brown, Nesterov), 5:36 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (4) (Cote, Korobov), 10:25
SYR Tyrell, (3) (Angelidis, Walker), 11:13
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Paradis, Gauthier), 12:48
Can the Syracuse Crunch win games where Nikita Kucherov doesn't appear like a rash all over the scoresheet? They did tonight. Can they get secondary scoring? They did tonight. Can they keep shots and chances down and keep the puck out of the back of their net? They did that all weekend. They answered a lot of lingering questions about their own legitimacy as a team and, in the process, have taken over the top spot in the East Division. They're still 2 points shy of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on Manchester.
The Crunch move on to face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Two good teams squared off in a familiar place. Syracuse won this round.
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.
SYR Brown, (4) (Cote, Sergeev), 1:53
NOR Whitney, (4) (Steckel), 14:29
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.