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Lightning Round: Ben Groulx agrees to new contract with Syracuse Crunch

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Nikita Kucherov reveals details of his injury.

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On Friday afternoon, the Syracuse Crunch’ general manager Stacy Roest announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ben Groulx have agreed on the terms of a new contract and Groulx will return as the Crunch’s head coach for the 2021-22 season [SyracuseCrunch.com]

“We are excited to agree to a new contract and have Ben Groulx return as head coach of the Syracuse Crunch,” Roest said. “Over the past five seasons, Ben has proven to be a key part of our organization. His leadership and structure have played an important role in developing our prospects, consistently producing a competitive Syracuse Crunch team and contributing to the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning. We look forward to continued growth with Ben behind the bench.”

Ben Groulx joined Syracuse as head coach prior to the 2016-17 season. Since that time the Crunch posted a 179-100-21-21 record in 321 games, including a franchise-high 47 wins during the 2018-19 AHL regular season. With 179 wins Groulx is ranked second in franchise history, trailing only Gary Agnew, who had 220 wins during his stint with Syracuse. Under Groulx, the Syracuse Crunch have made playoffs in all three season (the 2019-20 season was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic; during the 2020-21 season the playoffs will not be held in the North Division). Groulx led the team to its second Calder Cup final in 2017 and won two North Division titles in 2017 and 2019.

Ben Groulx has also made a big contribution to a development process of Lightning prospects. Since Groulx joined the team in 2016, 28 players have earned a call-up from the Crunch and 18 of them made their NHL debuts. Several of the current Lightning players spent at least one season in the AHL during Groulx’s stint, including Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton, and Mathieu Joseph.

Currently the Crunch are third in the North Division with 18-10-3 record in 31 games. The team will play their final game of the season tonight against the Rochester Americans.

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Nikita Kucherov has spoken to media for the first time since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final back in September 28. Kucherov revealed that he pulled a groin muscle during the five-overtime game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2020 NHL playoffs, which affected his hip. After trying several methods to alleviate the injury in the offseason, the Russian forward agreed to undergo surgery before the start of training camp.

While Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are expected to return for Game 1, Barclay Goodrow is still recovering from his injury. In his absence, Ondrej Palat will replace him on the penalty kill.

The Tampa Bay Lightning re-assigned forward Gage Goncalves to the Syracuse Crunch. Goaltender Hugo Alnefelt and forward Jaydon Dureau have signed amateur tryout (ATO) contracts with the Crunch.

The Orlando Solar Bears defeated the Florida Everblades 8-3, matching their franchise record for most goals scored in a single game.