Features

Articles that are feature stories.

Zettler Anxious for First Win


By Jeremy Houghtaling

As he waits for his first win behind the Syracuse Crunch bench, Rob Zettler has gone through a range of emotions.

He’s excited and energetic, and comfortable yet anxious. Although his tenure has started with three straight losses, he knows it hasn’t stemmed from a lack of trying.

“These guys all want to win as much as I do,” Zettler said of his team. “I'm not worried about their effort. I'm not worried about how they played. We just have to find a way to get the W."

Prospect of the Week: April 3, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 3 is … Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca made sure his Quinnipiac Bobcats would advance to the Frozen Four in their first national tournament last week.

Trade Analysis: Bishop Takes Conacher

Tampa Bay Lightning Rookie of the Year candidate and reigning AHL Most Valuable Player Cory Conacher was traded with a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop today.

Bishop, 6-foot-7, 214 pounds, has played in 13 games with the Senators this season, posting an 8-5-1 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He also has one shutout. Bishop’s eight wins are tied for the team lead, while he ranks tied for eighth in the NHL for save percentage among goaltenders with 10 or more games played. He also played in 13 games with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL this season, posting an 8-3-2 record with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

Prospect of the Week: March 27, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for March 27 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA).

Undrafted and undersized, Tyler Johnson has been huge for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What to Expect from Jon Cooper

I was hoping I’d get to write this.

“#TampaCuse” went on steroids Monday as Tampa Bay announced that Syracuse coach Jon Cooper is joining his 10 former students with the Lightning as head coach.

Cooper’s story is well documented. He was a practicing lawyer who had a dream to be a hockey coach and then went out and won a billion games and a handful of championships.

Prospect of the Week: March 19, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for March 19 is … Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton (OHL – Canada).

For years Lightning prospect followers have pounded their fists on their computer tables in demand of a right-handed defenseman capable of impacting a game at both ends of the ice. They got their wish last June when the Bolts selected Brampton (OHL) defenseman Dylan Blujus in the second round (40th overall).

Blujus had just completed a 34-point season with the Battalion and was a prime candidate for a breakout season offensively in 2012-2013.

That hasn’t exactly happened for the young Amherst, New York, native, as he just finished his third OHL season with fewer goals and points than his second season despite playing more games. Not everything shows up on the stat sheet, obviously, and Blujus has further developed his physical game while playing big minutes for a defense-first club.

What to Expect from Tyler Johnson

Two years and one week ago, Tyler Johnson’s mind was on two WHL scoring titles and helping his hometown Spokane Chiefs increase its win totals.

The undrafted, undersized sniper had no clear track for his hockey career when the Tampa Bay Lightning came calling and signed the free agent to a three-year entry-level contract.

His race to the NHL was now set, but how quickly he’d break through the ribbon was up to him.

He immediately rewarded the Lightning by finishing tops in the WHL in goals with 53 in 2011, and was just one point shy of being its top scorer with 115 points in 71 games.

The following year – his first year pro – Johnson made Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman look like a genius when the Washington state native scored 31 goals and 68 points and was an integral part of a championship Norfolk Admirals team that went down as one of the best in AHL history.

Waiting Game Almost Over for Johnson


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Tyler Johnson tried to not think about it.

One step away from achieving his dream, the Syracuse Crunch forward, seeing teammate after teammate getting called up to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, kept a positive attitude.

“Everyone’s dream is to play in the NHL, so you’re always thinking about it,” Johnson said Tuesday. “At the same time, you can’t really worry about it. You have worry about playing here, and getting better. That’s what this league is about – getting better.”

Twenty-six of the 46 players participating in the AHL All-Star Game Jan. 28 have since made their NHL debuts, including the Crunch’s Richard Panik and Radko Gudas. Although Johnson was given a look during the abbreviated training camp after the end of the lockout, Johnson didn’t stick and still hasn’t played in a regular season NHL game.

Mikkelson Ready for Crunch Stretch Run


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Brendan Mikkelson is looking forward to the stretch run and playoffs, even if it is in the American Hockey League.

Mikkelson, who had trouble consistently cracking the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, cleared waivers and was sent to the minor leagues Monday. The Regina native arrived in New York Tuesday, ready to refocus and rejoin the Eastern Conference-leading Syracuse Crunch.

Playing just four games with the Lightning this season, Mikkelson may stay in Syracuse through the Calder Cup playoffs, which would be his first time playing in the postseason since his rookie year with the Portland Pirates in 2007-08.

“I haven’t played in a week or so now,” Mikkelson said. “Hopefully I’ll be in the lineup and can contribute, and be someone who helps the team.”

Prospect of the Week: March 12, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for March 12 is … Radko Gudas, D, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA).

Lightning prospect followers have waited both patiently and impatiently for Radko Gudas to be called up to Tampa Bay, and it finally happened on Monday – but that’s not why he’s our Prospect of the Week.

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