The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the assignment of veteran center Chris Gratton to Norfolk of the AHL. Gratton cleared waivers today after being put on the wire to make roster room to allow the Lightning to retain recent callups like Paul Szczechura and Radek Smolenak and to make room for veteran center Jeff Halpern, who is set to return from IR soon.
In addition, the Lightning have assigned goaltending prospect Riku Helenius to Mississippi of the ECHL. Helenius was recalled to Norfolk after the Augusta Lynx ECHL franchise folded earlier this month. Mississippi was the Lightning's ECHL affliate last season. There is no word as yet if additional players will be headed to Biloxi as well.
Norfolk's press release on Helenius' reassignment after the jump:
You can't show up halfway through the game after spotting a three goal lead and expect to beat a goaltender like Tim Thomas.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 23 shots in the loss.
06:44 BOS Lucic (7), (Wideman, Kessel)(PP)
09:29 BOS Kessel (17), (unassisted)
10:46 BOS Ryder (7), (Hnidy, Hunwick)
13:06 TB Hall (2), (Artyukhin, Ranger)
18:43 BOS Chara (5), (Krejci, Wideman)(PP)
09:27 TB St. Louis (8), (Lecavalier, Ranger)
19:42 TB Szczechura (1), (Malik, Meszaros)
19:50 BOS Axelsson (1), (Bergeron)(EN)
I give a lot of credit to Mr. Szczechura, who was excellent in this game. He seems to be improving with every little bit of NHL game experience and all the young players really seem to be bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the table. They're the lone bright spot right now in what appears to be quickly developing into a lost season, although I am hesitant to declare it as such before Jeff Halpern returns to the lineup.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the excellent play of Adam Hall. Extra effort is something Hall showed tonight, and extra effort is probably the only way for these Lightning players to dig themselves out of hockey hell.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:37.
Paul Szczechura scored his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:34. He was also 22% on draws in the game. And if you ask me, a game like that has to make management consider keeping him up for a lot longer.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots on goal in 7:10, and has to get kudos for the way he's taking the puck to the goalmouth. He's not playing a fancy game, although he's got some skill to do so. He's playing a simple, dirty, honest game down in the high traffic areas around the net. The really encouraging thing is that he's getting shots on goal, and he's got a good shot, so the points should come if the coaching staff gets a little more comfortable with Radek and starts cranking up his ice time.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:27 and was 17% on draws. I wish he hustled as much as Szczechura does. Not that his effort level is terrible, but that extra little ompf is probably what Stammer needs to get going.
According to TSN.ca, Lightning winger Radim Vrbata will spend the rest of the season at home in the Czech Republic. The web site reports the Lightning waived him today (Monday). Vrbata signed a 3 year/$9 million contract in the offseason after scoring 27 goals for Phoenix last season. He has 3 goals so far this year.
Vrbata was signed to help bring along prospect Steven Stamkos on the Lightning's second line, but a Malone-Stamkos-Vrbata line never took off. Vrbata has been scratched recently, both due to health and underachieving performance reasons. He told TSN he is going home to get his game back together.
In other news, another free agent may be leaving as center Chris Gratton, who has been out injured, was waived today. Gratton signed a 1 year/$1 million contract in the summer.
Note: Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has more on this story. To read his report, see his Bolts Report RSS feed on the bottom right of this page. Damian Cristoder's blog RSS below reports Halpern will likely start his year in Norfolk on a conditioning assignment.
Rimouski Oceanic 1 @ Moncton Wildcates 5
W/C Luca Cunti, RIM: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 29 GP, 7-15-22, -1, 16 PIM
D Mark Barberio, MCT: 0-1-1, +1, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 26 GP, 7-15-22, +14, 18 PIM
Barberio (pictured) is tied for 10th in the league in scoring among defensemen. Benoit Gervais (undrafted) of Rouyn-Noranda leads with 34 points in 31 games. A free agent, Gervais had just 20 points in 64 games between PEI and Rimouski last year before exploding this year. He has good size at 6â€™2â€ 200 pounds.
Mississauga Ice Dogs 4 @ Brampton Battalion 5 (OT)
W Kyle DeCoste, BRA: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 28 GP, 5-5-10, -8, 29 PIM
Cody Hodgson (Vancouver) scored his 20th of the season in overtime to give Brampton the win. Hodgson has 42 points in 23 games since re-joining Brampton from the Canucks. Windsor's Taylor Hall (2010) leads the league with 54 points in 30 games. John Tavares (2009) leads in goals with 25.
Chilliwack Bruins 2 @ Vancouver Giants 3
C James Wright, VAN: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 29 GP, 12-14-26, +17, 14 PIM
Frustrating to see the offense shut down when the defense is improving.
Mike McKenna allowed 2 goals on 29 shots in the loss.
HER Bourque, (7) , 15:37
HER Pinizzotto, (1) (Wilson, Amadio), 19:44
HER Mink, (12) (McNeill, Amadio), 19:58 (EN)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Goaltenders combine for two goals in the Q ... and Mitch Fadden causes a downpour of stuffed animals in Tri-City.
North Dakota Fighting Sioux 4 @ Harvard Crimson 3
C/W Alexander Killorn, HAR: 1-0-1, E, 2 PIM (high sticking), 4 SOG
Season totals: 12 GP, 3-6-9, -2, 24 PIM
Killorn scored on a five-on-three power play to open the gameâ€™s scoring. He was checked from behind later in the game resulting in the ejection of Chris VandeVelde (Edmonton). Killornâ€™s goal was his third, which is second on the Crimson. Just a freshman, Killorn leads the team in points by two over sophomore Michael Biega (undrafted). Biega and his brother, Crimson junior Alex (Buffalo) attended Salisbury prep with Lightning prospect Kevin Quick. Killorn is also second on the team in penalty minutes, just two behind junior defenseman Chad Morin (undrafted).
The Lightning continue to be the antithesis of clutch.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 27 shots in the loss.
10:02 BUF Stafford (4), (Gaustad)
13:05 TB St. Louis (7), (Lecavalier, Krajicek)
09:46 BUF Vanek (19), (Roy, Stafford)
10:21 TB Ranger (2), (Lecavalier, Prospal)
14:41 BUF Hecht (3), (Mair, Lydman)
15:20 TB Prospal (6), (Malik, St. Louis)
10:03 BUF Roy (7), (Numminen, Stafford)
Vets played better. The effort was there. The results weren't.
Steve Downie was -1 with 4 hits in 9:24, and lost a fight to Adam Mair.
Matt Smaby had 1 hit in 8:32, and was caught in no man's land on Buffalo's second goal. Tonight was the kind of night that gets you reassigned to the minors, in my opinion.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 15:21. He was also 71% on draws, and was the best among the recent callups tonight.
Steven Stamkos had 4 shots and was 67% on draws in 19:28. The Lightning look like they're starting to work the puck more to him on the power play, and the kid has a great shot. Frustratingly, it's still not finding twine yet.
Who would've predicted this after last night's debacle?
Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 32 shots in the win.
NOR Potulny, (3) (Bochenski, Konopka), 3:31 (PP)
NOR Kearns, (5) (Mihalik, Heward), 7:47
NOR Kearns, (6) (Simek, Ward), 16:54
BRI Smith, (10) (MacDonald, McLean), 0:23 (PP)
NOR Bochenski, (10) (Konopka, Potulny), 10:37 (PP)
NOR Bochenski, (11) (Potulny, Konopka), 11:43 (PP)
NOR Segal, (9) (Ward), 9:00 (SH)
BRI Smith, (11) (Walter, Iggulden), 13:06 (PP)
BRI Iggulden, (14) (Smith, McLean), 17:51 (PP)
Brandon Bochesnki, Bracken Kearns, and Grant Potulny were the game's three stars.
Norfolk was an outstanding 3-for-4 on the power play.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Fadden (pictured) and Tyrell exhibit their Christmas spirit by assisting others - a combined seven times. Courtnall continues to punch people.