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Lightning Round: The Lightning and Panthers will share AHL affiliate in Syracuse

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

The adjustments keep coming for the upcoming season. The latest includes a couple of in-state rivals coming together to help each other out. Earlier this week it was announced that the Charlotte Checkers, the brand new affiliate of the Florida Panthers, had decided to opt out of the upcoming AHL season. That left the Panthers without a spot to stash their prospects in 2021. On Wednesday it was announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning had agreed to share the Syracuse Crunch with the Panthers.

Back in the day, teams sharing affiliates wasn’t unheard of. Now, however, with teams seeking to teach the same systems throughout the organization that has mostly gone by the wayside. It’s become standard that each NHL team is aligned with a specific AHL team. There will be some adjusting that needs to be done this season. With revenues hard to come by in a league that relies heavily on ticket sales, it’s understandable that some teams (in this case three) would choose to opt out for the season.

What does this mean for the team logistically? Well, there is at least one positive coming out of the situation - plenty of players for the roster. The move will help offset the players that are called up to the practice/taxi squad. It will also lessen the financial burden for both NHL clubs. They can help split the operational costs of running the Crunch (while independently owned clubs like the Crunch take most of the burden, their NHL affiliates do chip in with funding) instead of each running their own club.

It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff is run. It appears that Ben Groulx and his staff will be running the show, but will the Florida/Charlotte staff have input? How much of a leash will Groulx have in regards to the Panthers’ prospects?

When the AHL announced it’s season plans, Crunch owner Howard Dolgon indicated that the Crunch would be focusing on developing the prospects this year and that contending for the Calder Cup wasn’t a top priority (not having to worry about ticket sales makes it easier to be blunt, I guess). With a reswizzeled lineup does that might change. It might allow them to keep a couple of the prospects in Orlando that they were toying with the idea of keeping in Syracuse and put a few more veterans on the ice.

While the Crunch and Lightning are willing to help out another organization, it’s unlikely they will do so at the detriment of their own prospects. Even in a shortened season, this was going to be a big season for Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh. They are going to need to step up and be leaders on the team and show the Lightning that their development as professional hockey player hasn’t stagnated. Sacrificing ice time to a Panthers prospect isn’t going to help with that.

A lot will depend on who the Panthers loan to the Crunch, something we’ll start to find out in the next week or so. The AHL isn’t firing up until February 5th and training camps haven’t been announced yet, but expect that news soon. With the NHL starting next week, it would make for a smooth transition to have the players assigned to AHL training camps right around the same time, giving the teams roughly three weeks to prepare for the season.

Could this lead to the prospect of Gold Medal hero Spencer Knight leaving Boston College early, signing his entry-level contract, and suiting up for the Crunch? Unlikely, but it is a possibility!

Also, please, please, please let them play at least one game in a Thundercats-themed jersey:

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The Tampa Bay Lightning had a Blue/White scrimmage on Wednesday night. There was no broadcast coverage, but several of the beat writers were there and they provided some video of the play.

Alex Barre-Boulet and Jack Finley scored two goals for Team White, who won 2-0. There will be one more scrimmage on Saturday. It is expected that there will be some sort of broadcast coverage with Dave Mishkin and Brian Engblom (still no word on who is taking the mic for the regular season).

“Boo” Nieves was an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Not the greatest time to be looking for work. He did end up in Tampa on a tryout contract with the Lightning. Now he just has to make the team. []

“It’s an organization with a lot of good players and you obviously want to make an impression quick and early, and make a good one, and then try to just kind of keep your foot on the gas and just try to make yourself noticeable in any way you can. There are limited spots, so the things you do right you’ve got to do really well.”

The power play is going to look different this year. That’s what happens when the lynchpin is on the shelf with hip surgery. During the first couple of days Brayden Point took Nikita Kucherov’s spot, Tyler Johnson took Point’s spot, and Ondrej Palat was in Alex Killorn’s spot down low. []

“You want to put the puck in the hands of your best players, and Pointer is one of our best players,” Cooper explained. “He’s played there before, not as much obviously with when Kuch has been out there. So, we’re just, it was day one working on special teams. We’ve got some ideas on some things. In the bubble if you remember, we moved guys all over the place on our power play.”

Tuukka Rask spoke to the media for the first time since leaving the playoff bubble last fall. It was speculated that it concerned a family emergency and he confirmed it. [NESN]

I got a phone call the night before that our daughter really wasn’t doing so well at that point, they had to call an ambulance and everything. So obviously at that point, my mind is spinning, I was thinking, ‘I need to get out of here.’ So the next morning, I informed (GM Don Sweeney) and we had a brief talk and then I just left.”

The first significant training camp injury has occurred in Buffalo. Forward Zemgus Girgensons injured his hamstring and had to undergo surgery to repair it. He’s expected to miss six months, so even if the Sabres shock the world and make the playoffs, he would miss it. Could that open up a spot for one of their young players, say Dylan Cozins? []

Cozens, Buffalo’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, scored a tournament-leading eight goals and finished second with 16 points in seven games. The 19-year-old center will be given an opportunity to compete for a spot with the Sabres while still being eligible to return to his Canadian junior team in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Stay safe out there folks, and keep wearing that mask.