Friday, April 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's Norfolk AHL affiliate has won 15 in a row

TAMPA — J.T. Wyman played only 29 games this season for AHL Norfolk and hasn't been with the Admirals since mid December. But the Lightning right wing keeps close tabs on his former teammates.

"Every game," Wyman said, "I'm stuck on the score blog checking how they're doing."

It is time well spent as Tampa Bay's affiliate, 42-18-3 and atop the Eastern Conference, is working on a historic winning streak.

Winners of 15 straight — tied for third longest in AHL history — the team needs two wins to tie the single-season record of 17 set in 2004-05 by Philadelphia. Three wins equals the league's longest streak ever, 18, by Syracuse, which won 15 straight to end the 2007-08 season and three to open 2008-09.

"The streak has taken on a life of its own," Norfolk coach Jon Cooper said Tuesday. "In a 76-game season you look for different ways to motivate guys. This is just a self-motivating factor to help us win hockey games."

"It's incredible, just a full team effort," LW Cory Conacher said. "It's awesome to see."

The Admirals go for their 16th straight win tonight against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Cooper could not put his finger on why things clicked but pointed to a 4-2 loss to Springfield on Feb. 5 in which Norfolk, which had been 18-0-1 with a lead after two periods, allowed three third-period goals to squander a 2-1 advantage.

It was Norfolk's fifth loss in eight games and dropped its record to 27-18-3. After the game Cooper held what he called a "passionate" video session.

"It was an eye-opener for the players and coaching staff we were getting away from what was making us successful," Cooper said. "We were taking shortcuts, we were cheating the game."

"It was a wake-up call," Conacher said. "All the guys whether they played or not were in the room just learning; get pucks in and make the hard plays, sacrifice your body when you have to and move your feet instead of taking obstruction penalties."

A team-building Super Bowl party followed and Norfolk hasn't lost since.

"We're staying disciplined and committed to the system," Conacher said.

Conacher leads the league with 31 goals and leads the team with 68 points, but he hardly is alone.

C Tyler Johnson has nine goals, 24 points during the streak and is plus-14. D Mark Barberio has five goals and 14 points, and goalies Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus have eight and seven wins, respectively.

"The guys have the will to win right now," said Tokarski, who on March 7 was called up to Tampa Bay. "It's fun to be part of and fun to keep watching them win."

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Vinny Lecavalier, out 11 games with a fractured right hand, said he is "hoping" to be stick-handling and shooting pucks this week and back in the lineup by late next week. … D Bruno Gervais (shoulder) is "close" to returning," coach Guy Boucher said.

MINOR MOVE: C Vladislav Namestnikov, the Lightning's 2011 first-round draft choice, signed a three-year, entry-level contract. Namestnikov, 19, selected 27th overall, has 22 goals, 70 points and 50 penalty minutes in 60 games for London of the junior Ontario league.

TICKETS: Thursday's game with Toronto is sold out but standing room tickets for $49.75 will be available at noon Thursday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum box office. Limit two per customer.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tokarski is the second goalie to get his first NHL win and point in the same game (Jason LaBarbera for the Rangers against the Capitals in March 2004). … The new Times Forum box office will open at 9 a.m. Thursday with ticket and merchandise offers. See tampabay.com/blogs/lightning for more details. … RW Brandon Segal and G Mathieu Garon (groin) also were scratched.

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