How the Lightning plans to handle the three-goalie rotation

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Peter Budaj (31) in net during a December game. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Peter Budaj (31) in net during a December game. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
Published March 13 2018

With all veteran Peter Budaj has been through in his career, he said this was the first time he's had to miss a game due to injury.

And Budaj, 35, ended up sidelined for two and a half months with a high ankle sprain suffered Dec. 29. Budaj returned Monday from a conditioning assignment with AHL Syracuse and will back up Andrei Vasilevskiy tonight against the Senators.

"It was a bad situation when I was hurt," Budaj said. "But one injury in 15 years? I'm very blessed."

With Budaj back, Louis Domingue was sent back to Syracuse. Domingue, 26, had played well in relief of Budaj, winning five of his seven starts with Tampa Bay (four on the road).

Sending Domingue back to Syracuse is likely a temporary thing to get him some work. Tampa Bay doesn't play again until Saturday, when Vasilevskiy is expected to start in the showdown with the Bruins.

The Lightning can carry three goalies as there are no roster limits after the deadline. Domingue can get sent down without having to clear waivers until he plays in 10 NHL games with Tampa Bay; he's appeared in eight.

"There's only two nets," coach Jon Cooper said. "So somebody is going to have to sit on the sideline. It's not ideal, but again, it's another position where you need everybody and unfortunately (Budaj) got hurt and it was a long-lasting injury, which those are always tough. It's about balancing.

"We've got 12 games left, and Vasilevskiy is going to get most of the starts, and who will be in for those other ones, will have to be seen. But those guys are a big part of why we're here right now and whenever they're called upon, they have to be ready."

The 600 club

Captain Steven Stamkos, one of the game's elite scorers, marveled at the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin reaching the 600-goal milestone Monday night (in 900 games played.

Stamkos has 348 in 655.

"It's pretty remarkable," Stamkos said. "To do it in that many games in this era, he's definitely the best goal scorer of my generation, for sure. And he's still got lots left in the tank, which is a scary thing."

Blueline shuffle

With nine defensemen, the Lightning is trying to make sure to shuffle to keep everyone sharp. And that meant on Tuesday that D Jake Dotchin was out, with D Braydon Coburn back in.

Dotchin, however, has impressed coaches with  his play the past couple games. "Jake last game he was solid," associate coach Rick Bowness said. "Very dependable defensively, which he needs to be. He made high-percentage plays on the breakout. And when he could, he was physical.  The way he played last game, that's exactly how we need him to play."

Slap shots

D Slater Koekkoek, D Andrej Sustr, C Cory Conacher are also expected to be scratched tonight. … D Ryan McDonagh continues to be paired with former Rangers partner Dan Girardi, with Bowness saying it'll stay that way for a while. … The lines stayed the same with J.T. Miller-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov/Yanni Gourde-Brayden Point-Tyler Johnson/Adam Erne-Anthony Cirelli-Alex Killorn/Chris Kunitz-Cedric Paquette-Ryan Callahan. … Congratulations to Conacher and his wife, Shannon, who recently learned they're expecting their first child, a son, in August.