Quick Strikes: Syracuse Crunch clinch berth in 2018 Calder Cup playoffs

and the Crunch have signed a 21-year-old defenseman to a PTO

The Bolts

We are within days of the end of Ondrej Palat’s rehabilitation. It’s great timing too, the Tampa Bay Lightning are floundering defensively at even-strength and on the PK. [NHL dot com]

For the first time since suffering a lower-body injury January 20 at Minnesota, Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat skated a full practice session in a regular jersey on Wednesday, shedding the red no-contact jersey that had become a staple of his on-ice attire as he continues to rehab. Palat was scheduled to miss six to eight weeks of action. Saturday’s critical Atlantic Division showdown with the Boston Bruins at AMALIE Arena would be exactly eight weeks from his time of injury.

The Captain Steven Stamkos also acknowledges the issues with the team at the moment, despite the success.

I hear Nikita Kucherov is a pretty good hockey player.

After taking the day off from skating or practice, Andrei Vasilevskiy says his body is feeling much better. [Tampa Bay Times]

While the Lightning went through an intense, two-session, 90-minute practice Wednesday afternoon, Andrei Vasilevskiy was nowhere to be found. The Lightning’s No. 1 goalie was getting some much-needed rest and treatment in the dressing room. Probably a massage, too.

As a complimentary player on the Lightning, J.T. Miller finally has the ability to unlock his full offensive potential. [The Hockey Writers]

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Miller is finding success with the Lightning. He has the build and pedigree of a player that could flourish in the right situation. Not only was he a first-round draft pick by the New York Rangers in the 2011 draft, he is working on his third straight 20-goal season and is well on pace to break 50 points for the second straight year.

The Prospects

You heard that right! The Syracuse Crunch are headed to the Calder Cup Playoffs after a commanding 6-2 win over the Binghamton Devils, coupled with a Toronto Marlies victory over the Laval Rocket (who needed to lose in regulation for the Crunch to clinch).

Dennis Yan and Alexander Volkov each scored twice, Matthew Peca and Mitchell Stephens finished the night with a pair of assists each. Louis Domingue, who made his first appearance in the net since Tampa Bay’s victory over the Montreal Canadiens on March 10, allowed only stopped 28-30 which is good for a .933 save percentage. [Syracuse]

Syracuse went back up by two with Yan’s second goal of the night halfway through the second period. The rookie picked off a pass in the Crunch’s zone, flew down the right wing and beat Lack with a snipe off the crossbar from the circle.

Before the game, the Syracuse Crunch signed 21-year-old ECHL defenseman T.J. Melancon to a PTO (professional Try Out). It will be interesting to see what the Crunch have in a player like this, everything on paper indicates there might be a quality player here. [Syracuse Crunch]

Melancon, 21, has skated in 56 games with the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL this season. He leads Admirals defensemen with 42 points and is third on the team with 28 assists. The first-year pro has also appeared in two games with the Belleville Senators.

Prior to his professional career, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound blueliner played in 200 games with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL from 2014 to 2017 tallying 99 points (29g, 70a). In his final season, the Oshawa, Ontario native paced all QMJHL defensemen with 19 goals.

“T.J. is a biiiiig hockey fan”

The Game

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have come from behind to beat the Dallas Stars in a shootout on the back of a James van Reimsdyk hat trick, but they lost their MVP Frederik Andersen to a “upper body injury.” [Pension Plan Puppets]

I’m not sure what happened but Curtis McElhinney came into the net during the TV timeout. My night is complete. (Comment at will, pretend I read them.)

Official word on Andersen is an upper-body injury, commentators are pointing to the goalie interference by Radulov in the first as the culprit.

Who’s laughing at WiFi and cold nights now? “Why the Winnipeg Jets should be the envy of the NHL.” [ESPN]

“If you’re coming for palm trees, this isn’t the place,” said Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg’s general manager since 2011, when the Atlanta Thrashers were reborn as Jets 2.0. “But if you want a rabid fan base, whose most important thing in life after family is the Jets, then you’re coming to the right place.”

Who was the best NHLer playing on the worst team for the longest time? There are multiple answers to this, but here’s one: Shane Doan. Disagree? Let us hear it in the comments! [SB Nation]

Shane Doan has 972 career points, placing him in the top 100 players of all time. Somehow, some way, he avoided being traded or leaving the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes for 20 years. There was a time he’d be mentioned among the top players in the league, easily — but never got a chance to show the world what he was capable of.

When it was all said and done, Doan finished with just 10 playoff series to his name.

Highlight of the Night: Dallas needs Ben Bishop back.