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Lightning Round: A quick look at Ondrej Palat’s big offensive season

Syracuse Crunch defeated WBS Penguins in a game that wasn’t scheduled

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Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Tampa Bay Lightning have not lacked scoring power, with several of their players stepping up in his absence: Victor Hedman leads the team with 29 points in 29 games, Steven Stamkos returned after his injury in great shape and leads the Bolts with 14 goals, and Mikhail Sergachev is on the pace for his career-high in points even during the shortened season. However, there is another story that stands out above anything else. Over the last two seasons Ondrej Palat has found his second breath and is playing the best hockey in his career at age of 29.

Palat was a part of the Lightning’s Triplets line, which impressed many fans during their first seasons in the NHL, however, while Nikita Kucherov continued to develop and has grown into one of the best players in the world, Ondrej Palat’s and Tyler Johnson’s careers went differently. Palat had been struggling with injuries over his career and has yet to play a full season in the NHL even during the previous season, which was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic, he missed one game with a lower-body injury.

About two years ago no one expected that after such a long history of injuries Palat would be able to return to his early career shape. He managed to change his offseason routine, discovered some additional foot-speed in himself and worked his way back to the Lightning top line. During last season he played a big part in the Stanley Cup victory, playing on the Lightning’s first line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov and scored 11 goals during their Stanley Cup run.

This season he successfully replaced Kucherov at the right circle on the first power play unit, scoring a career-high seven power play goals and leading the team with Steven Stamkos in this statistic. With 15 power play points Point is second behind only Hedman amongst the teammates

In all situations Palat scored 11 goals and, while his shot percentage will probably drop from career-high 17.2%, he will still should be able to reach the 20 goal-mark for the second time in his career, despite playing a shortened 56-game season. After 29 games he has 27 points, scoring at 0.93 points-per-game rate, which is also his career-high result. Per Ondrej Palat also leads the Lightning in xGF/60 with 0.127 xG For per 60.

Defensively Palat has always been a solid player. Despite having a relatively lightweight defensive usage having started 62.7% of his shifts in offensive zone, his numbers still looks strong.

Lightning Links

The Syracuse Crunch defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-2 on a Friday night. Goaltender Christopher Gibson made 39 saves and defenceman Sean Day scored twice in the game.

This game wasn’t initially scheduled for this season, Hardev has more details in his Syracuse Crunch Weekly article [Raw Charge]

The Syracuse Crunch have added a 33rd game to their regular season schedule for this season, organizing a date with the Wilkes-barre/Scranton Penguins on the road tonight, March 19th. The Crunch have a 2-1-0 record over the WBS Penguins through three games this season, their best against anyone else in the North Division. The Crunch were only supposed to play the Penguins six times this year, so tonight’s game will make it seven on the season.

This announcement comes on the back of further postponements of games between the Crunch and the Rochester Americans, who are still in COVID protocol with multiple players now confirmed to have tested positive. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are also in COVID protocol and were Wilkes/Barre’s initial date for Friday night.

Unfortunately, the Orlando Solar Bears fell to the Jacksonville Iceman 1-5, recording just 10 shots on goal in this game. Krystof Hrabik scored the only goal for the team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning sent rookie Ross Colton to taxi squad, however it seems like just an off-day transaction.

The Tampa Bay Lightning radio color commentator Caley Chelios joined the NBC Sports broadcast team as a rinkside reporter for the NWHL’s Isobel Cup playoffs.

As the NHL’s regular season passed its midseason mark, the Lightning beat reporter Joe Smith shared his thoughts on best stories of this season [The Athletic, paid content]

Most impressive rookie: Cal Foote

Ross Colton is coming on strong. But Foote has already become a regular on the blue line. Foote was in the lineup Thursday for the 13th straight game, after being in and out early in the season, and you can tell he’s starting to put it all together. The game Tuesday was the most striking example, with Foote making several plays in joining the rush and taking shots. He’s been more physically engaged, winning battles and believing the game has slowed down.

Hockey News

The next two Boston Bruins games were postponed after four of their players entered the NHL’s COVID Protocol List on Friday.

The New York Islanders signed Russian forward Anatolii Golyshev to a one-year contract, after his team Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg was eliminated from the KHL’s playoffs.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice in last night’s contest against the New York Rangers, extending his goal streak to five games.

According to Kevin Weekes, the Buffalo Sabres are finalizing a deal to trade goaltender Jonas Johansson to the Colorado Avalanche.

The Vancouver Canucks placed forward Elias Pettersson on long-term injured reserve, he won’t be eligible to play until March 31.

Another Vancouver Canucks player Tanner Pearson is out for at least four weeks with a lower-body injury.