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How about some hockey? AHL goalies Tokarski, Helenius making progress, coach says



With the NHL lockout in its 89th day, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltenders coach Frantz Jean has been working weekly with Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius of the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. Both are in important seasons. Tokarski's contract expires at the end of the season, and Helenius, a 2006 first-round draft choice by Tampa Bay, is re-acclimating to the North American game after two-plus seasons in Europe.

So far, Jean said he likes what he sees, despite both players with stats that could use some polishing.

About Tokarski: "He came in in tremendous shape. He's really matured and takes ownership of his game. When he feels there's an issue that needs to be addressed, he addresses it right away. I like where he is at physically and mentally."

About Helenius: "I like the improvement I've seen since the start of training camp. His battle level is really high right now. We're doing baby steps with him, but the improvement is there every week."

As for stats, Tokarski is 9-4-2 in 16 games for the conference-leading Crunch with a 2.49 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. Helenius is 6-3-0 in 10 games with a 3.15 goals-against average, a shutout and .873 save percentage.

Helenius, though, is on somewhat of a hot streak. Discounting a 7-2 loss to Bridgeport on Dec. 9 in which both goalies had rough outings, Helenius in six previous games was 5-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

"He came in tentative and trying to be a little bit too technical," Jean said. "Now, he's really battling out there and making saves that are unexpected."

As for Tokarski, 23, who last season in five NHL games (1-3-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .879 save percentage), demonstrated he was not ready for the big show,  his stats at Syracuse probably need to be better. The Lightning has substantial organizational depth in net and, in the case of Tokarsi's contract, a decision to be made.

"Being able to control what's going on in front of him by controlling his rebounds and the momentums of games," Jean said about the part of Tokarski's game that has most improved. "He's really good at managing the game. I'm happy with his first one-third of the season."

[Last modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:27pm]


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