Four Lightning CHL prospects are in playoff action starting tonight in the OHL and WHL. A look at the matchups:
Ontario Hockey League â€“ Eastern Conference
3 â€“ Mississauga (43-21-0-4) vs. 6 â€“ Sudbury (29-30-3-6)
Chris Lawrence and the IceDogs had the second best record in the Eastern Conference this year, but will have the No. 3 seed as East Division Champion Belleville automatically gets the No. 2. Mississauga and Sudbury split in 6 games this year, with one of Sudburyâ€™s 3 wins coming in a shootout. Lawrence led all IceDogs in scoring against the Wolves this year with 4-3-7 in the 6 games. The series begins tonight in Mississauga. Lawrence and IceDogs did not make the playoffs last season.
Like a great prize fighter, the Lightning continue to summon up the will to fight past any adversity.
Marc Denis made 34 stops for the win. Martin St. Louis broke his goal scoring slump with a pair of talleys with the other Lightning goal going to the suddenly hot Jason Ward. Brad Richards, Nolan Pratt, Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and Cory Sarich all had assists.
The win coupled with Atlanta's loss to San Jose moves the Lightning back to within 2 points of first place in the division. And, with one head-to-head matchup on the schedule, the team's division title destiny is back within its hands. Huge win tonight.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
And the season continues to grind down to the bitter end.
Interesting note for those looking for silver linings: Keller's goal totals pro-rate to about 20 goals for a full season had he not missed so much time with the injury he had in December. That's not a bad rookie campaign, especially for a player who is so undersized. That's something to build on, which is critical. Aside from Chris Lawrence, there's not much scoring help coming through the pipeline with the possible exception of the X factor that is the Kazionovs. So, whatever solutions to the minor league offensive woes there can be for next season have to come from within and have to come from the young forwards already under contract stepping up.
HER Werner, (1) (Laing, Arsene), 4:10
SPR Keller, (12) (Henrich, Milley), 8:41 (PP)
HER Tenute, (22) (Wilson, Klepis), 6:37
HER Miles, (1) (Hedlund), 11:40
SPR Wanvig, (14) (Healey), 3:54
HER Bourque, (20) (Steckel, Laing), 15:46
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
Johnstown shows a flicker of hope.
Morgan Cey stopped 34 of 37 shots faced for the win. Gus Katsuras led the way offensively with 1 goal and 2 assists while fellow rookie Maxime Boisclair had 1 goal and 1 assist. Dimitri Tarabrin and Zbynek Hrdel had the other Johnstown goals with Doug Andress, Jean Desrochers and Andrew Martens adding individual helpers.
The win moves Johnstown six points behind Reading for the final North Division playoff spot with three games in hand. And, with Radek Smolenak and PJ Atherton back in the fold, maybe the Chiefs aren't quite ready to die just yet. Every game is a must win from here on out.
JHN Hrdel, (9) (Katsuras, Andress), 1:02
JHN Boisclair, (15) (Katsuras), 12:02
TREN Mondou, (20) (Pandolfo), 17:07 (PP)
TREN Haggett, (19) (Pandolfo, Mondou), 7:02
JHN Katsuras, (7) (Boisclair, Martens), 17:42
JHN Tarabrin, (16) (Desrochers), 8:04
TREN Bertoli, (22) (Zancanaro, Haggett), 14:39
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
Kazan defeated Khimik in Game One of their semifinal series 3-1. Dimitri Kazionov had an assist in the game for Ak Bars.
Omsk defeated Yaroslavl in Game One of their semifinal series 5-2. Evgeny Artyukhin did not suit up for the Lokomotive.
Kazan took a 2-0 lead in their semifinal series by defeating Khimik 5-1. Dimitri Kazionov had 1 goal and 1 assist in the match.
Yaroslavl tied their seminal round series at 1-1 by defeating Omsk 4-3. Evgeny Artyukhin was -2 in his first action of the playoffs.
I've made the executive decision, in light of the Lightning and Falcons dissolving their affiliation agreement, to not name a Prospect of the Week for 3/12 through 3/18. I would instead like to use this opportunity to salute the Springfield Falcons' fans. Things may not have ended the way the Lightning and the Falcons had hoped, but there's no doubting the class of the Springfield fans and the role that Springfield has played in already putting 4 Lightning prospects full time into the NHL (Ranger, Artyukhin, Craig and Tarnasky).
Sorry for my tardiness.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 21 of 24 shots faced for the win. Eric Perrin and Jason Ward led the way with 1 goal and 1 assist while Brad Richards had a pair of helpers. Vincent Lecavalier and Filip Kuba scored the other Lightning goals. Martin St. Louis, Doug Janik, Ruslan Fedotenko and Dan Boyle had individual helpers.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
According to ECHL.com, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned rookie left wing Radek Smolenak and the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League have reassigned rookie defenseman P.J. Atherton to Johnstown.
Smolenak has 25 points (13g-12a) and 31 penalty minutes in 32 games with Johnstown and one assist and eight penalty minutes in 20 games with Springfield.
Atherton has 26 points (4g-22a) and 46 penalty minutes in 49 games with Johnstown and two points (1g-1a) and two penalty minutes in seven games with Springfield.
In an article in today's St. Pete Times, Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster acknowledges that lack of firepower was a main reason the Springfield Falcons struggled as the Lightning's affiliate.
"We need to find some goal scorers," Feaster told the Times. "Even if they're not immediately going to be big-time goal scorers here they can be big-time goal scorers down there and give us that organizational depth."
Damian Cristodero, the article's author, suggests this may be a mult-year project. Head scout Jake Goertzen told the newspaper this year's draft is believed to be generally shallow. He said the greatest talent will be available in 2008.
Goertzen said the team would not pass up a stud at another position but agreed, "We must upgrade our skill and scoring."
The Lightning were in this position two years ago when they focused on addressing the need for skill and scoring at the 2005 draft, but ended up taking behemoth defenseman Vladimir Mihalik in the first round. The Lightning's next six picks were skilled players, and though at the time Feaster said, "Of our top four picks, we would've been happy taking any of them with our 30th overall pick," Mihalik made it three straight years Tampa Bay took a defenseman with their first pick.