Syracuse Crunch goalie Riku Helenius set to return from Finland

The former first round draft pick should be returning to the Crunch in the coming days. How ready is he to play?

It's been almost two months. The AHL regular season waned and ended for the Syracuse Crunch and seven playoff games are now in the can.

Over that time span, Cedrick Desjardins has become not just the starter for the Syracuse Crunch but the workhorse and last resort. While he has Pat Nagle backing him up in net, Nagle has not seen much playing time at all - 97 minutes during the regular season, posting a 3.70 GAA and a .875 save percentage.

Indeed, it's been almost two months... But news started spreading Monday and then continued Tuesday that goalie Riku Helenius should be making his North American return in the immediate future.

Helenius, 25, has been playing his first season in North America since 2009-10. His stats have mirrored the sub-par efforts by goalies in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in general this season (a 2.52 GAA and .900 save percentage), but Riku has been distracted (to say the least) by personal matters back in his native Finland. Before his departure from Syracuse on April 6th, Helenius had previously left the Crunch in mid December, likely to spend the holidays with his ailing mother.

What kind of difference will Helenius' presence make for the Crunch in the playoffs? That's unknown. Perhaps it will just be a morale boost for the Crunch to have their teammate back with them? That's a powerful motivator.

It really depends on Helenius' shape on his return and how he performs in practice. I expect Cedrick Desjardins to remain between the pipes for the Crunch regardless of Helenius' status... But Riku could end up serving as Desjardins backup again if he's in shape and shows that he is ready to return to playing.

The Crunch finds out Wednesday night who they will face in the AHL's Eastern Conference Finals; the Providence Bruins face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the decisive game 7.