Syracuse clinched a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs last week. With three regular season games remaining, the Crunch can finish as high as first and as low as third in the North Division. The team's 35-24-7-7 record (.575 points percentage) ranks seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Reinforcements from Tampa Bay
While Syracuse is postseason bound, Tampa Bay will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Lightning, who finished the regular season Sunday at 42-30-10, have reassigned seven players to the Crunch: defenseman Jake Dotchin and forwards Michael Bournival, Cory Conacher, Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde and Joel Vermin.
The seven have combined to play 279 AHL games and 168 NHL games this season. They've accounted for 77 of 216 Crunch goals (35.6 percent), producing 195 of 585 points (33.3 percent). Dumont has played the most for Tampa Bay (39 games), followed by Dotchin (35), Adam Erne (26), Gourde (20), Bournival (19), Vermin (18), Conacher (11). Steven Stamkos played 17 games.
Of the seven skaters returning to Syracuse, Dotchin registered the most points for Tampa Bay, 11 assists, followed by Gourde with eight points. Gourde has six goals for Tampa Bay and 22 for Syracuse.
A total of 13 players saw game action for Tampa Bay and Syracuse during the 2016-17 season.
Tye McGinn and Tanner Richard led Syracuse with three points each in Week 26. Erik Conda added two assists. Eight others recorded one point.
McGinn posted two goals and one assist in Friday's overtime loss in Binghamton, his third multi-point performance in 19 appearances this year. Friday also marked the third multi-goal game of McGinn's Crunch career and the 25th by a Crunch player this season. McGinn has 29 goals and 60 points in 91 games with Syracuse. He has 15 points (8g, 7a) in 17 games since returning from injury March 3.
Richard had an assist Friday, plus a goal and an assist in Saturday's win. The center scored his first career shorthanded goal to tie the game in the second period and delivered the primary assist on the game-winning power-play goal in the third. After missing 20 games with an injury, Richard has five points (2g, 3a) in six games since returning. Richard, last year's top scorer at 54 points (11g, 43a) in 71 games, is seventh on this year's roster with 32 points (14g, 18a) in 45 games.
Brett Howden scored Saturday's game-winner, his first professional goal in his second pro game. The 6-foot-3, 19-year-old center from Oakbank, Manitoba, was Tampa Bay's first selection in last June's NHL Draft. He had 38 goals and 81 points in 58 games as captain for Moose Jaw in the WHL this season.
Dennis Yan made his professional debut Saturday. The dual citizen of Russia and the United States was Tampa Bay's third-round pick at the 2015 NHL Draft. He had 46 goals and 75 points in 64 QMJHL games this season with Shawinigan. Yan turns 20 years old Friday.
John Kurtz notched the lone assist, his first, on Tanner Richard's shorthanded goal Saturday. Kurtz has four goals in 16 games with Syracuse this year. He has 10 goals and 13 points in 83 career Crunch games.
Mathieu Brodeur played his 300th AHL game and Adam Comrie played his 250th Saturday; Jonathan Racine played his 250th Wednesday. Mike Halmo played his 300th professional game Friday.
Upcoming: Utica, Binghamton
Two of Syracuse's last three regular season games are against Utica, Wednesday on the road and Saturday at home. The Comets have the points edge through 10 meetings, 12-11. The Crunch took the last match, 5-1.
Utica has lost its last two games, 5-0 at Saturday Rochester and 1-0 Sunday vs. St. John's. The Comets are fifth in the North Division (.527), a win short of Albany (.541) and St. John's (.541) for a playoff spot.
Three players are tied for the Utica scoring lead at 44 points each: Darren Archibald (22g, 22a), Alexandre Grenier (17g, 27a) and Curtis Valk (15g, 28a).
Thatcher Demko (22-15-4) has the league's fifth best goals-against average among rookies at 2.56. Richard Bachman (12-11-3), who has been with Vancouver since Feb. 28 (2-3-0), was reassigned to Utica Tuesday. Against Syracuse, Bachman is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 G.A.A. and Demko is 3-2-1 with a 2.62 G.A.A.
Binghamton, Friday's opponent, ranks last in the division and 29th in the league at 27-42-2-2 but is 5-4-0-0 vs. Syracuse. The season series is tied at 10 points apiece. The Senators stunned the Crunch last week, 4-3 in overtime, after trailing 3-1 in the third period.
Phil Varone has 15 points (4g, 11a) against the Crunch and leads the team at 51 points overall (15g, 36a). Jason Akeson, Casey Bailey and Max McCormick each have 20 goals to lead the team. Akeson has five vs. Syracuse.
Leading goalie Matt O'Connor (14-18-2, 3.23) was recalled by Ottawa Saturday. Chris Driedger (11-18-2, 3.25) is 1-2-0 vs. Syracuse with a 3.90 G.A.A. Marcus Hogberg, 22, is winless in his first two AHL games.