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Syracuse Crunch start road trip strong

The Crunch play three more road games this week, one in Albany and two in Toronto, before coming home Feb. 10 to face Binghamton.

by Press Release / TampaBayLightning.com

Syracuse enters February on top of the North Division at 22-12-4-5 (.616). The Crunch were 2-0-1 in the last three games before the All-Star break, all on the road, improving to 8-7-3-3 away from the War Memorial.

The Crunch play three more road games this week, one in Albany and two in Toronto, before coming home Feb. 10 to face Binghamton. 

Syracuse had four representatives at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic Sunday and Monday in Allentown, Pa. Ben Groulx coached the North Division, and was joined by defenseman Matt Taormina and forwards Yanni Gourde and Cory Conacher. Taormina was selected for the fourth time and third in a row. Conacher was an All-Star in 2012. Gourde is a first-time AHL All-Star.

Top Performers

Cory Conacher had points in all three games last week (1g, 3a) plus the shootout game-winning goal Saturday in Utica. He led all Crunch players with a plus-4. Friday in Springfield, Conacher recorded his sixth multi-point game of the season (1g, 1a). Since Dec. 31, Conacher has 16 points in 13 games (3g, 13a), second most in the AHL during that time. He's third on the Crunch in scoring at 32 points and tied for the team lead in assists at 25.

Henri Ikonen also recorded four points in Week 16 to equal Conacher for most on the team. He was first star Friday in Springfield with one goal and one assist, his third career multi-point game. He has two goals and eight points in 31 games this year. 

Yanni Gourde collected three points last week including his eighth multi-point game of the year Friday in Springfield (1g, 1a). He leads the team in goals (15), game-winning goals (5) and shorthanded goals (3). 

>Joel Vermin had one point in each Week 16 game, (2g, 1a), including a shorthanded goal Saturday in Utica, the league-leading ninth of the season for Syracuse. 

Adam Comrie scored two goals last week, his first since December. He has 10 points (5g, 5a) in 27 Crunch games.

Gourde appeared in his 200th Crunch game Saturday in Utica. Wednesday was Jeremy Morin's 300th AHL game and Friday was Cory Conacher's 200th in the league.  

Transactions

Defenseman Jonathan Racine, 23, was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens Jan. 26 in exchange for Nikita Nesterov. 

Racine, who will wear No. 3 for Syracuse, was originally drafted in the third round, 87th overall, by Florida in 2011. He had three assists in 26 games for St. John's this season after an Oct. 8 trade from the Panthers to the Habs.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Montreal native has appeared in 224 career AHL games (San Antonio, Portland, St. John's) and one NHL game (April 1, 2014, with Florida). 

Jake Dotchin recorded his first NHL point, an assist, Tuesday in Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss to Boston. Dotchin made his NHL debut Jan. 21 in Arizona, becoming the 45th player to appear in a game for both Syracuse and Tampa Bay since the clubs affiliated in 2012. 

Erik Condra was reassigned to the Crunch Friday and played in the last two games. He had missed eight of the last nine Crunch games while skating for Tampa Bay. He's fifth on the Crunch at 23 points (7g, 16a) in 26 games. He's minus-4 in 11 games for the Lightning.

Mathieu Brodeur signed an AHL contract with the Crunch Friday after playing his first 21 games with Syracuse on a professional tryout deal. He scored that day and has five points (2g, 3a) in 23 AHL contests this year.

Forward Olivier Labelle was released from his P.T.O. Sunday. He appeared in six games for Syracuse.

Upcoming: Albany, Toronto

The Crunch visit Albany Thursday for the first game at Times Union Center since the AHL announced New Jersey's affiliate will relocate to Binghamton next season.

The Devils are second in the North Division with a .591 points percentage (25-17-1-1). They've won four of six games, but lost to Rochester Saturday, 5-3. It was the second time this season Albany allowed five goals or more during regulation. The team's 2.61 goals-against average ranks fifth in the AHL. Rookie Ken Appleby (12-7-0, 2.05) owns the league's best G.A.A. despite surrendering five goals on 24 shots last time out. He's 1-1 vs. Syracuse. John Quenneville leads the Devils in scoring at 29 points (10g, 19a), tied for seventh among AHL rookies.

The Marlies host the Crunch 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Toronto has won four straight but are fifth in the division (20-20-2-1). Syracuse downed Toronto in the clubs' only previous meeting Nov. 25 5-4 in overtime. 

Brendan Leipsic, who had two assists in the game, leads Toronto with 38 points (11g, 27a) and is tied for sixth in the AHL. His 17 power-play assists are tied for third in the league as the Marlies have built the fourth-best power play at 23.4%. The goal leaders are Byron Froese (7) and Kasperi Kapanen (16). 

Antoine Bibeau, who suffered the OT loss to Syracuse in November, has seen the most action for Toronto (8-10-3, 2.79). Garret Sparks (9-5-0, 1.87) has appeared in 14 Marlies games and earned a 27-save shutout last game.

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