NHL Game Night 12/2: Lightning at Flyers

Wow. Radek Smolenak.

TB-3
PHI-4 (OT)

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the loss.

First Period
02:58 PHI Carter (17), (Timonen, Lupul)(PP)
11:50 TB Recchi (6), (Jokinen, Prospal)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
00:36 PHI Richards (9), (unassisted)(SH)
04:36 PHI Carter (18), (Hartnell, Lupul)(PP)
04:57 TB Prospal (5), (St. Louis, Eminger)(PP)
15:25 TB Downie (1), (Smolenak, Stamkos)

Overtime
02:05 PHI Richards (10), (Timonen, Carter)(PP)

Steve Downie was named the third star of the game. He was the the fourth most impressive prospect the Lightning had in the game, to me, but ok. I get it. He's a former Flyer.

I was really impressed with the two callups, particularly Smolenak. I wish there had been more 5-on-5 play in the game so he could have played more. I really liked the energy he had on a line with Artyukhin before R2 got nicked on a boarding major from Scotty Upshall in the first period. Obviously, you can see the flaw in Smolenak's game: he's not a speed merchant. But, you know, there was no fear in the young man. Sometimes these callups get into these games and they act like they're afraid to get a puckmark on their tape because maybe NHL tape is expensive, or something. Not Smolenak. First shift he gets the puck down low and makes a power move to get a shot off from the angle. Third or fourth shift he fights Aaron Asham. Third period he's out there battling down low again and getting off a hard shot from the angle to try to tie up the game. And he gets rewarded with the assist on the tying goal as one of his long slappers generates a rebound for Downie to send the game to OT. That's probably the best NHL debut we've seen from a player since Paul Ranger came up a few games into 2005-2006. Honestly, if he keeps playing like that, one of these old fogies is out of a job.

Paul Szczechura, very quietly, played some big minutes in this game both at even strength and on the penalty kill. And, you know, that's high praise if you're an NHL rookie in your first game and the coach puts you out there on the PK. It shows the kind of intelligence Szczechura has, and I'm not surprised Tocchet instantly started leaning on the young man. He's just one of those guys who is a coach's dream. I don't think his scoring really projects to the NHL level, and you can see he's still maybe a quarter step slow, but he can outthink 95% of the players he's going up against, and that means he'll have a solid NHL career.

Bottom line, the Norfolk kids did good tonight, and I loved the energy the new blood brought to the table. And, you know, there's other kids down there knocking on the door like Brandon Segal,Matt Smaby, and Blair Jones. I think it's time to get some of the AARP members out of Tampa and mix some youth and enthusiasm into the team, especially on the forward lines.

Steve Downie had 1 goal and was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 10:43.

Paul Szczechura had 3 shots and was 30% on draws in 15:16.

Radek Smolenak had an assist and was +1 with a fighting major, and a game high 6 shots on goal in 9:45. And he gets a gold star from me.

Steven Stamkos had 1 assist, 4 shots, and was 60% on draws in 16:47.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Lynx Suspend Hockey Operations

PRINCETON, N.J. - The ECHL announced that the Augusta Lynx have suspended operations, effective immediately and voluntarily relinquished their membership back to the League. The move comes as a result of the Augusta ownership group being unable to continue to operate in 2008-09.

"We are very disappointed for our fans, league partners and the other member teams of the ECHL," said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. "The ECHL would like to thank the Lynx fans for all of their support."

Augusta players will immediately become unrestricted free agents.

The league announced that the Augusta at Mississippi on Thursday and the Gwinnett at Charlotte games on Thursday have been cancelled. The league said that work has begun on a revised version of the playing schedule which will be released as soon as possible.

Lightning prospects currently assigned to Augusta, Kevin Quick and Chris Lawrence, of course will not become unrestricted free agents, but will be reassigned by Tampa Bay.

Courtnall an All-Star

Today the BCHL announced its Coastal Conference all-stars and Lightning prospect Justin Courtnall made the list. Courtnall's father, Geoff, will be coaching the Coastal squad at the January 14 game vs. the Interior Conference.

Courtnall is in his third year in the BCHL, and is tied for the team lead in scoring with fellow all-star Evan Pighin. Both were participants in the Lightning's prospect camp this past summer. Pighin is a free agent.

Courtnall is averaging a career-best 1.1 points per game as he has accumulated nine goals and 25 assists for 34 points in 31 games. He is second on his club in penalty minutes with 53. Last year he was 19-32-51 in 60 games with Victoria. The year previous he split between Victoria and Burnaby, scoring five goals and 14 points in 48 games.

Szczechura, Smolenak Recalled to Tampa

The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forwards Radek Smolenak and Paul Szczechura from the Norfolk Admirals, it was announced today by Lightning Executive Vice President & General Manager Brian Lawton. It is the first NHL call-up for both players.

Smolenak, a 6-foot-3, 183-pound left wing from Prague, Czech Republic, has appeared in all 23 games for Norfolk this season, scoring eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. He leads Norfolk and is tied for third in the American Hockey League with 93 penalty minutes. He is the only player among the top 50 of both penalty minutes and scoring in the AHL. Smolenak also has three power play and one game-winning goal to go along with a +3 rating. Smolenak was drafted in the third round (73rd overall) by the Lighnting in 2005.

Szczechura, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound center, has also appeared in all 23 games for Norfolk this season, leading the team with 11 goals, 13 assists and 24 points. Szczechura is tied for ninth in the AHL in scoring and is tied for tenth in the league in goals. His +7 rating is best among Admirals forwards and he also has one power play, one shorthanded and one game-winning goal. Szczechura signed a two-year deal with the Lightning on April 24. Prior to that, he played under an AHL contract as a rookie in 2007-08, scoring 14 goals and 12 assists with the Admirals after being acquired from the Iowa Stars on January 15. Despite appearing in only 24 games with Norfolk last season, Szczechura led the team in scoring by a rookie and tied for the overall team lead in game-winning goals with three. He netted points in his first ten games with the Admirals – the longest scoring streak ever by a Norfolk rookie and tied for the fourth longest streak overall.

N.A. Juniors Game Night 11/30: Breakout Game for Cunti

Big games from Cunti and Jung ... Tyrell and PG in trouble.

Helenius Recalled to Norfolk

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned goaltender Riku Helenius to the Admirals from their ECHL affiliate, the Augusta Lynx, Admirals General Manager Mike Butters announced on Sunday.

Helenius, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound goaltender from Palkane, Finland, appeared in two preseason games for the Admirals, going 1-1-0 with a 4.00 goals-against average and .840 save percentage. He did not play in a regular season game with Norfolk prior to being reassigned to Augusta on October 16.

The 20-year-old went 3-4-1 in his first eight games of North American professional hockey with the Lynx this season, posting a 4.41 goals-against average and .874 save percentage. He recorded his first pro win in his pro debut, stopping 44 of 46 shots on October 21 at Gwinnett.

Helenius was originally drafted in the first round (15th overall) by Tampa Bay in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

ECHL Game Night 11/30: Lynx at Checkers

The Lynx survived a 42 shot onslaught by the Charlotte Checkers snapping an 8 game losing streak by winning in a 2-1 shootout. Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius did not dress for the Lynx after being recalled by Tampa to the Norfolk Admirals. Both Chris Lawrence and Kevin Quick failed to convert on their shootout attempts.

Checkers owner Michael Kahn has been linked as one of the possible investors to prop up the Lynx $300,000 budget shortfall.

Augusta 2 @ Charlotte 1 SO
D Kevin Quick: 0-0-0; E; 0 PIM; 1 SOG
F Chris Lawrence: 0-0-0; E; 2 PIM (boarding); 1 SOG

Augusta's record now stands at 6-10-1-2, and next play on Thursday night against the Mississippi Sea Wolves in Gulfport, MS.

ECHL Game Night 11/29: Checkers at Lynx

In a home game marred by reports of financial trouble by the 10-year old Augusta franchise, the visiting Charlotte Checkers were merciless defeating the Lynx 6-2 behind a 4 goal 2nd period. Chris Lawrence assisted on the Lynx third period goal. Riku Helenius backed up Mike Brodeur before being recalled to the Norfolk Admirals. This was 2nd straight game that the Lynx lost by a score of 6-2.

Charlotte 6 @ Augusta 2
G Riku Helenius: did not play
D Kevin Quick: 0-0-0; -1; 0 PIM; 5 SOG
F Chris Lawrence: 0-1-1; +1; 0 PIM; 0 SOG

Augusta falls to 5-10-1-1, and complete the home-and-home series with the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday.

AHL Game Day 11/30: Admirals at Bears

I would love it if someone in the organization figured out how to protect a third period lead.

NOR-2
HER-3

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 33 shots for the loss.

First Period
HER Osala, (16) (Bouchard, Perreault), 3:01

Second Period
NOR Potulny, (2) (Bochenski), 4:11

Third Period
NOR Curadeau, (1) (Bochenski), 0:40
HER Giroux, (17) (Aucoin, McNeill), 10:15 (PP)
HER Joudrey, (2) (Bourque, Gordon), 17:50

Brandon Bochenski was named the game's second star.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Lightning Trade Hutchinson for Tukonen

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that they have traded D Andrew Hutchinson to the Dallas Stars in exchange for prospect RW Lauri Tukonen.

Tukonen, who was selected 11th overall by Los Angeles in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, floundered for three years as a pro in the Kings organization before returning to Finland where he has played for Lukko Rauma this season, amassing 5 goals and 13 points in 22 games this year. The 22 year old winger was once touted as an up-and-coming power forward type in the Olli Jokinen mold, but his lack of intensity saw him score just 14 goals and 36 points in 62 games in his career season in the AHL, his rookie professional year in 2005-2006.

Hutchinson's departure removes a one-way contract from the Lightning's ledger. The defenseman has had respectable numbers in the minors, with 1 goal and 14 points in 20 games, but the emergence of prospect Blair Jones as the right-handed triggerman on Norfolk's power play was likely the final straw that made Hutchinson expendable.

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