After whirlwind callup, Koekkoek expected to get playing time
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek certainly took a unique path in his latest callup from AHL Syracuse.
Koekkoek, 21, said he had four plane stops Thursday on his way from Newfoundland to Tampa, with stops in Halifax and Washington D.C. It took him more than 12 hours, leaving at 7:30 a.m. and arriving at 8 p.m, meaning all three meals at the airport.
"A heck of a day," Koekkoek said. "But if it means coming up, I'll do it whenever."
Koekkoek, a first-round pick in 2012, is expected to step in and help make up for the absence of defenseman Jason Garrison, who is out 3-5 weeks with a lower body injury. Koekkoek, who has played in four NHL games the past two seasons, is slated to be scratched tonight, but coach Jon Cooper said he'll get an opportunity.
"He's here for a reason," Cooper said. "Not going to bring Slater up just to sit the bench. He's a young kid that needs to play. If he doesn't play tonight, we'll get him in soon."
Koekkoek, a smooth-skating left-shot defenseman, said having some NHL experience takes away some of the nerves, and he plans to just play his game and earn the coaches' trust.
"It's a big opportunity," Koekkoek said. "It's a tough loss with Jason out, he's a great defender, great person. So they're going to miss him in here. But hopefully I can fill his shoes, because I can't do it all on my own obviously."
Defenseman Matt Carle, a healthy scratch in 10 of the last 14 games, is expected to play tonight. As far as making up for Garrison's minutes - his 16:18 average even strength was third most on the team - Cooper plans to spread it out, though noted Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman will get their share of it.
More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start for the Lightning. Cooper said G Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely get a few stints back in the AHL to get some more playing time, considering the team's schedule the next few weeks..."He's still very much in the development stage," Cooper said. "We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't play him as much as we could." RW Jonathan Marchessault is slated to be scratched again. He's wearing a new number (81), a reference to the No. 18 he had worn since he was 16 years old in juniors. Marchessault didn't know he could switch midseason, but with 18 occupied by Ondrej Palat, he liked 81. Veteran RW Ryan Callahan will play in his 600th career game tonight, saying he feels like it's gone by so fast, and it's gratifying to see how far he's come. "First of all, playing 60 games in this league, that's a feather in your cap for anybody," Cooper said. "But to play that many games the way we plays the games, it's pretty impressive.