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Crunch Time: Injuries force Syracuse to regain footing

by Doug Spencer / Tampa Bay Lightning's Doug Spencer takes a look at the three things you need to know about the Bolts' AHL affiliate each week.

1. Tough times will force Crunch to dig deep

The Syracuse Crunch have had a rough ride over the past 12 days. Not only has the team lost key cogs due to injuries to scoring leader Jonathan Marchessault along with veterans Mike Blunden and Philippe Paradis, but they have not managed to win a game since February 4. Further compounding issues is the promotion of starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to the NHL, where he has continued his strong play with the Lightning.

Syracuse assistant coach Stacy Roest has a different take on the injury situation.

“These injuries make opportunities for our young guys to get good experience,” Roest said.

This past weekend, Syracuse picked up one point of a possible four in back-to-back losses at the hands of the Norfolk Admirals: 2-0 on Friday, February 13, and then 2-1 in overtime on Saturday.

Syracuse is currently on a five-game winless streak. The team has secured three points in that span however through overtime losses, which has helped the team remain in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Adversity is part of sports and how the Crunch deal with it will determine how their season plays out. The schedule will not get easier for them as teams try to battle for the final playoff spots. Roest said the team just needs to stick to its game plan in order to be successful.

“Usually the team that does that the longest will win the game,” Roest said.

2. Sergeev’s strong showing

Young Russian defenseman Artem Sergeev is back. The Moscow native is in his third season with the Crunch after a brief stint in the East Coast Hockey League with the Florida Everblades. With the Everblades, Sergeev racked up six goals and 18 points through 32 games and was a plus-11. So far, he has skated in four games with the Crunch and recorded the team’s lone goal this past weekend. Last season with Syracuse, Sergeev skated in 68 games, registering three goals and 10 points.

Roest said that Sergeev has improved since last year.

“He’s older, more experienced. With these young guys they just need more experience, more reps…they need to be put into different types of situations,” said Roest.

The more game experience Sergeev gets, the more confident he will become as a defenseman, and confidence is a key ingredient for success at the next level.

3. Another tough week ahead

The Crunch will have three opportunities to snap their winless streak this weekend with games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Syracuse will open up with tough games at home against the Albany Devils (22-20-4) on Friday, February 20, before facing the Binghamton Senators (20-23-5) on Saturday.

Albany is four points out of a playoff spot and will be fighting to get back into the top eight in the East while the Senators sit in the basement with the worst record in the conference. On Sunday, the Crunch will travel down to Rochester to face off against the Americans (22-26-4). Expect Syracuse to come out flying on Friday night as the try to keep the War Memorial Arena rocking and get back in the win column.

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