The Crunch (18-9-1-5) enter Week 14 atop the North Division standings for the seventh consecutive week. They have points in five consecutive games (2-0-1-2), including a shootout loss in Rochester Friday, 4-3, and an overtime loss vs. St. John's Saturday, 2-1.
Wednesday, Syracuse begins a stretch of seven games in 11 days. It is the only time Syracuse plays more than six games in an 11-day span this season. Every other stretch of seven Crunch games takes place over at least 13 days. After five of seven games at home, the Crunch play the next six on the road over 12 days Jan. 25-Feb. 5.
Syracuse has a 12-2-0-3 home record, best in the AHL by points percentage (.794). The team's 6-7-0-3 road record (.469) ranks 18th. . . . Syracuse has held opponents under 20 shots for three straight games. . . . The Crunch penalty kill was perfect Saturday for the first time in seven games. The Crunch power play is 6-for-18 over four games (33.3%). . . . Syracuse's seven shorthanded goals are tied for second in the AHL.
Mike Halmo scored goals in both games last week, creating a three-game goal-scoring streak which equals his career high, accomplished twice before.
Halmo takes over the team goals lead, 11. The marker Friday was his third unassisted goal of the season, most on the team and tied for the AHL lead. Last year he had one unassisted score. The goal Saturday was his first power-play point of the season. Last year he had eight (4g, 4a).
Halmo has scored goals in consecutive games five times this season. Last year he did so once. He had four goals through 33 games last season, before closing the year with 18 goals in his remaining 41 appearances.
Cory Conacher extended his scoring streak to three games with power-play assists Friday and Saturday. The last time Conacher had a longer scoring streak with the Crunch was the fall of 2012 when he recorded 12 points (6g, 6a) in an eight-game span Oct. 12-Nov. 2.
Conacher has seven points in the last five games (2g, 5a), totaling 22 points for the season (6g, 16a), fourth on the team. His power-play production ranks second on the team at 12 points (3g, 9a). He has 50 points in 60 career games with Syracuse (18g, 32a).
Matt Taormina added two points to his team-leading total Friday with his eighth multi-point game, a team high. Taormina's scoring streak was halted at six games (2g, 7a) Saturday, but his 32 points (10g, 22a) are six more than any other Crunch player. The total ranks first among AHL defensemen and tied for ninth overall.
Joel Vermin recorded an assist Saturday, his first point in a Crunch uniform since Nov. 29 when he had a five-game scoring streak. In between, he missed 13 of 15 Crunch games while with Tampa Bay or out with injury. He has 12 points (7g, 5a) in 20 games with the Crunch.
Erik Condra has points in three straight Crunch games. He scored a shorthanded goal Friday, the fifth of his pro career and his first in the AHL. He has 14 points (4g, 10a) in his last nine Crunch games with three NHL stints interspersed. He's third on the Crunch at 23 points.
Slater Koekkoek was reassigned to the Crunch Tuesday, the defenseman's first time on the Crunch roster since a two-game stint Dec. 9-12. He has two assists in seven Syracuse games and four helpers in 29 Lightning games.
Other players reassigned to the Crunch are forwards Erik Condra and Adam Erne, and goaltenders Adam Wilcox and Kristers Gudlevskis. Condra and Gudlevskis were called up and returned to Syracuse since Saturday.
Luke Witkowski , recalled Friday, and Michael Bournival, recalled Saturday, remain in Tampa along with Matthew Peca who was recalled Dec. 27.
Gabriel Dumont was recalled Tuesday, his first call-up since joining the Lightning organization. He's the 15th player (ninth forward) to be recalled this year. Dumont has played 18 NHL games with Montreal (1g, 2a). He's played 408 AHL games, including 19 with Syracuse.
Upcoming: Utica, Toronto, W-B/Scranto
A run of four games in six days starts Wednesday in Utica. The Comets are 2-1-1 vs. Syracuse but are 13th in the Eastern Conference at 12-16-5-1 (.441). Utica has won two of three following a nine-game skid (0-4-4-1).Alexandre Grenier, who led the Comets with 48 points last year, has the club lead at 27 this year (11g, 16a), including five versus Syracuse (3g, 2a). All-Star defenseman Jordan Subban has six power-play goals, a team best and tied for most by an AHL defenseman. Rookie Thatcher Demko (8-8-3, 2.95) allowed one goal in a win vs. Syracuse. Richard Bachman (4-7-1, 3.13) is 1-1-0 against Syracuse.
Friday's opponent, Toronto (15-16-2-1), has tumbled from first place in mid November to fourth place entering Week 14. Syracuse won the lone meeting, 5-4 in overtime Nov. 25. The Marlies have points in three straight (2-0-1) after losing six of seven (1-6-0). Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic are tied for the team scoring lead at 32 points apiece. Kapanen has 16 goals and a league-best 22 power-play points (9g, 13a). Antoine Bibeau (7-7-3, 2.55) has seen the most action of Toronto's five goalies.
The Penguins, Syracuse's opponent Saturday and Monday, have won four straight and rank first in the AHL at 25-7-3-0 (.757). They downed Syracuse twice in October, 3-1 and 6-1. Rookie Jake Guentzel leads the AHL in goals, 19, and is second in points, 38.