Lightning journal: Peter Budaj back after long injury absence

Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj, playing the third period in relief, gives up this goal and makes three saves against the Senators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Lightning goaltender Peter Budaj, playing the third period in relief, gives up this goal and makes three saves against the Senators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published March 13 2018
Updated March 14 2018

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

And Budaj, 35, ended up sidelined for 21/2 months with a high ankle sprain suffered Dec. 29. Budaj returned Monday from a conditioning assignment with AHL Syracuse and backed up Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tuesday's 7-4 loss, coming in to start the third period and making three saves and giving up one goal.

"One injury in 15 years?" Budaj said. "I'm very blessed."

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

Sending Domingue back to Syracuse is a temporary thing to get him some work. Tampa Bay doesn't play again until Saturday, when Vasilevskiy is expected to start in a home showdown with the Bruins. The next time a backup will be needed is Sunday vs. Edmonton. Domingue is expected to start for the Crunch on Wednesday and Friday before returning to Tampa Bay.

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 has 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 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 of 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 and C Cory Conacher were also scratched Tuesday. … D Ryan McDonagh continues to be paired with former Rangers partner Dan Girardi, with Bowness saying it will stay that way for a while. … Congratulations to Conacher and his wife, Shannon, who recently learned they're expecting their first child, a son, in August.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.