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Rookie Defenseman Blujus Making Progress in Syracuse


By Jeremy Houghtaling

While Dylan Blujus broke through for his first goal last week, his real strides have come in his own zone.

With an increase in ice time due to injuries and call-ups, the defenseman has started to find his groove with the Syracuse Crunch. Head coach Rob Zettler has seen steady progress in Blujus' game since he made his professional debut nearly three months ago.

"I would say over the last month, (Blujus) has been a much better defenseman, meaning he's going back for pucks more confidently and he's not as prone to get rid of pucks as quickly," Zettler said of the Buffalo native. "The beginning of the year, he'd get back and rim it around the boards and it would [cause] a cluster in our end for a little while because of it. He's just being a little bit more patient with the puck and smarter with the puck."

Lightning Recall Namestnikov

(Tampa Bay Lightning release) The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forward Vladislav Namestnikov from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Namestnikov, 22, has skated in 23 games with the Lightning this season, posting three goals and seven points to go along with four penalty minutes. He recorded his first career NHL goal and assist on October 13 against the Montreal Canadiens. The 6-foot, 182 pound forward tallied his first career game-winning goal on October 24 in Winnipeg. Namestnikov has played in 27 career NHL games, all with the Lightning over the past two seasons.

The Zhukovskiy, Russia native has skated in 16 games with Syracuse this season, posting seven goals and 17 points to go along with a plus-1 rating. Namestnikov ranks fifth on the Crunch for points this season. He has appeared in 116 career AHL games, all with the Crunch, registering 33 goals and 86 points. Last season he set AHL career high totals for games played (56), goals (19), assists (29), points (48) and penalty minutes (40).

NHL Game Night: 1-12-15 Lightning at Flyers

So ends Evgeny Nabokov's NHL career?

TB-3
PHI-7

Evgeny Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 12 shots the rest of the way. The fact Cooper didn't put Nabokov back in for the Third Period seems a bit telling, like perhaps this is the end of the road. Nabokov appeared to earn the start after playing reasonably well in his last outing, but he once again proved the Lightning just can't rely on him for even a mediocre start in back-to-back situations. Were it me, I'd highly consider calling up Kristers Gudlevskis to assume day-to-day practice duties as a waiver-exempt placeholder and then swap him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for planned starts, such as in upcoming back-to-backs. It could be a sad ending for Nabokov, who is probably one of the 4 or 5 best Russian goaltenders ever. The bottom dropped out quickly for him, though, a la Dwayne Roloson several years back.

First Period
6:12 PHI VandeVelde (3), (Schenn, Giroux)
10:26 TB Stamkos (23), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
16:15 PHI Umberger (7), (Read, Coburn)

Second Period
1:45 PHI Voracek (17), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
2:36 PHI Bellemare (4), (VandeVelde, Del Zotto)
7:02 PHI Streit (5), (Schenn, Simmonds)(PP)
8:37 PHI Schenn (10), (Streit, Voracek)(PP)
15:01 PHI Raffl (11), (Laughton, Simmonds)
15:23 TB Boyle (8), (Paquette, Stralman)

Third Period
1:20 TB Callahan (13), (Drouin, Filppula)(PP)

Adding injury to insult, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson left the game with lower body injuries, the former of which meant that Brian Boyle ended up having to take shifts on defense. Johnson's injury, which looked like a potential twisted knee, is particularly troubling. So, in addition to whatever happens (if anything) with the goaltending situation, you could see Vladislav Namestnikov called up to fill for Johnson and on defense, I'll guess Luke Witkowski would get the call and the coaching staff might try to slide one of their lefties playing the right side over to the left side.

This was a case where the Lightning got caught peeking ahead to Boston, didn't come out with their best effort, saw some soft goaltending, and allowed it to snowball out of control. Now they'll go into a place they seemingly never win with a depleted lineup after Bishop had to nearly play 2 periods of hockey in the back-to-back situation. So, a minor lapse of mental focus may snowball beyond a single hockey game, which is a lesson Cooper should stress to his team.

Cedric Paquette had a helper with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:32, as he got to fill some of Johnson's minutes. He was also 40% on draws. To his credit, he was still throwing checks and playing hard in garbage time on the Third Period, which isn't unexpected given his well-respected effort level.

Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 with 1 hit in 15:56. Zero shot attempts. None. The kid sneezes out assists, which is amazing for a guy who rarely even attempts to shoot the puck, and tells you how big a point producer he could be if he actually did.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Game Day: 1-12-15

Astana 2 vs. Magnitogorsk 3
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Win, 33/35, 2.00 GAA, .943 sv%
Season totals: 38 GP, 24-6-5, 4 SO, 1.80 GAA, .935 sv%

Ex-Predators pick Denis Platonov had 1 goal and 1 assist to lead Magnitogorsk to a 3-2 victory over Astana. Ex-NHLer Nigel Dawes had 1 goal for Astana in defeat. Magnitogorsk is currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Khanty-Mansiysk 4 vs. Khabarovsk 2
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk, 1-0-1, +2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 41 GP, 16-8-24, +5, 10 PIM

Nikita Gusev had the late insurance marker in 17:16 of ice time in Yugra's 4-2 win over Khabarovsk. Ex-Sharks first rounder Lukas Kaspar also had a pair of goals in the win. Yugra is currently 10th in the East, but they're just 2 points shy of the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference.

Podolsk 2 vs. Bratislava 1 (OT)
Jaroslav Janus, Bratislava, DNP
Season totals: 24 GP, 6-12-5, 2 SO, 2.93 GAA, .893 sv%

Ex-Flyers pick Mario Kempe, brother of Kings first rounder Adrian Kempe, scored the OT winner for Podolsk in their 2-1 victory over Bratislava. Jaroslav Janus did not dress for Slovan in the defeat. Bratislava is 11th in the 14 time Western Conference.

Sochi 6 vs. Mytischi 4
Dmitry Korobov, Mytischi, 0-0-0, -3, 2 PIM, 7 SOG
Season totals: 31 GP, 1-7-8, -1, 51 PIM

Dmitry Korobov was -3 in 17:44 in Mytischi's 6-4 loss to Sochi. He also took a minor for tripping in the match. Ex-Senators pick Andre Petersson had 2 goals and 4 points in the win for Sochi. Ex-Lightning defenseman Matt Gilroy had a goal in defeat and ex-Russian junior national team defenseman Albert Yarullin also had a pair of helpers in the loss. Mytischi is currently dead last in the 14 team Western Conference.

ECHL Game Night: 1-11-15

Evansville IceMen 3 at Wichita Thunder 4

F Danick Gauthier, WIC: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Season totals (ECHL): 36 GP, 15-18-33, +3, 35 PIM, 113 SOG
Season totals (AHL): 1 GP, 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM

D Daniel Milan, WIC: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 34 GP, 0-10-10, -6, 82 PIM, 35 SOG

Lightning prospect Daniel Milan assisted on the game winning goal just past the midpoint of the 3rd period to propel the Thunder to a 4-3 victory over the visiting IceMen. Milan now sports a season-high three-game point streak with 4 assists during that span. Fellow Bolt prospect Danick Gauthier unleashed a game-high six shots on Evansville goalie Scott Greenham, but was unable to hit the scoreboard. Wichita takes on the Central Division leading Allen Americans next weekend in an important back-to-back series.

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