Artem Sergeev  saw his opportunity and responded.
With three significant injuries to the Crunch blueline, Sergeev has thrived with increased ice time. The 20-year-old rookie defenseman has averaged close to 20 minutes a night and played in all situations, as Syracuse has gone 4-2 to snap out of a recent slide.
For Syracuse Crunch coach Rob Zettler, Sergeev has elevated his play in the last few weeks.
"I've really liked his physical play," Zettler said. "He's been smart. He uses his body well. He's a big, thick guy and he's strong. He's starting to understand how he can best use it to his advantage, and he's done that lately."
Admittedly not a flashy player, Sergeev has registered two goals and five assists in 47 games this season, and is a plus-four in the last five games. The 6-1 Russian’s first professional season has come with many lessons on and off the ice, whether it’s how to eat and prepare or working on a different skating style that helps him be stronger and more solid on his feet.
"The first season is always a tough one," Sergeev said. "I'm putting in hard work, trying to do a better job on the details, which is going to make a difference."
The Tampa Bay Lightning organization hasn’t set out specific areas to work on with Sergeev. They would prefer to see overall growth in his game.
"You work on pretty much everything, you get better at everything -- in O zone, neutral zone and D zone," said Sergeev, who went undrafted and was signed as a free agent in 2012. "The whole game you need to be solid. That's what they're looking for."
But the biggest part is making his recent play a regular occurrence.
"To make the next step, you need to be consistent every night," Sergeev said. "You need to play your best game every night. So that's what I'm working on."