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Matt Peca signs with Lightning, "good chance" Wilcox does, too

The Lightning locked up one of its top college prospects Wednesday, signing Quinnipiac University center Matt Peca to a two-year, two-way deal.

Peca gets a tryout contract with the AHL Syracuse, giving the Crunch a big boost for a potential playoff run.

Am also hearing that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been in talks with University of Minnesota star goalie Adam Wilcox, and there's a "good chance" he signs with Tampa Bay. Per the CBA, Wilcox could become an unrestricted free agent since it's been for years since he was drafted (sixth round, 2011). 

Both Peca (seventh round) and Wilcox were selected in the 2011 draft, and could end up being late-round steals.

Peca was captain for Quinnipiac, racking up seven goals and 36 points. A 5-foot-8, 155-pound forward, Peca boasts a blend of skill and grit, the kind of versatile player that the Lightning covets in its organization. Wouldn't be surprised if he makes himself a call-up candidate next season. …

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Slater Koekkoek called up: "A dream come true."

Slater Koekkoek, 21, the 10th overall pick in 2012, had been playing well for the Crunch in his first pro season, with five goals and 24 points (plus-10) in 66 games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Slater Koekkoek, 21, the 10th overall pick in 2012, had been playing well for the Crunch in his first pro season, with five goals and 24 points (plus-10) in 66 games.

Slater Koekkoek had just finished watching the Lightning-Canadiens game Monday night, and noticed D Victor Hedman was out with an injury.

Koekkoek, 21, a defenseman with the AHL Syracuse Crunch, said a couple buddies teased him, telling him to keep his phone on.

"Luckily I did," he said with a smile.

With Hedman (lower body) day-to-day, Koekkoek was called up and will make his NHL debut tonight against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Assistant GM Julien BriseBois gave Koekkoek the unforgettable first call.

"It was a dream come true," Koekkoek said. "My heart was pounding. It's just an honor to be here."

Koekkoek, 21, the 10th overall pick in 2012, had been playing well for the Crunch in his first pro season, with five goals and 24 points (plus-10) in 66 games. Getting his shot with the Lightning was gratifying for Koekkoek considering his journey, having to overcome three shoulder surgeries. Koekkoek knew his time would come, and was pumped his parents, Bryan and Karen, and sister Madison, were driving from Ottawa to see his first game. He said his billet family from Windsor also will be here. …

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Jason Garrison out 3-4 weeks, big blow among Lightning injuries

Jason Garrison, who suffered the injury early in Saturday's game, could miss the first round of the playoffs.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Jason Garrison, who suffered the injury early in Saturday's game, could miss the first round of the playoffs.

The Lightning blueline was delivered another big blow Monday as veteran defenseman Jason Garrison will be out 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury, coach Jon Cooper said this morning.

Garrison, who suffered the injury early in Saturday's game, had gone back to Tampa to get re-evaluated Sunday. That means Garrison could miss the first round of the playoffs.

But that's not all.

Cooper said All-Star center Tyler Johnson is out tonight - and is day-to-day - with an upper body injury, defenseman Andrej Sustr is out 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury. The most amazing thing is that center Cedric Paquette, who looked to suffer a serious left leg injury Saturday, skated in today's practice and is a game-time decision.

Every team deals with injuries, but this is just awful timing for Tampa Bay, which enters tonight's showdown in Montreal just three points behind the Canadiens for the Atlantic Division lead. …

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Paquette day-to-day; Marchessault and Witkowski recalled

With injuries to two key regulars - center Cedric Paquette (lower body) and defenseman Jason Garrison (upper body), the Lightning are recalling forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski from AHL Syracuse.

Marchessault and Witkowski are expected to join the Lightning for its game against Montreal Monday.

The encouraging news for the Lightning is that Paquette is considered just day-to-day; it certainly looked a lot worse when his left leg collided with the post while he prevented an empty-net goal late in Saturday's game. Paquette traveled with the team to Montreal.

Defenseman Jason Garrison, on the other hand, is getting evaluated today in Tampa by doctors, with the team hoping to know more by later tonight or tomorrow on his prognosis. Garrison got hurt early in Saturday's game, when he got checked hard into the boards by the Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader. Garrison was slow to get up and skate off the ice. An extended absence by Garrison would be a big blow, as he's a key to the Lightning blueline, and veteran Braydon Coburn is still out with a lower body injury. …

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Paquette back in lineup; Namestnikov staying - for now

Lightning center Cedric Paquette will return to the lineup tonight, having missed six games with an upper body injury.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning center Cedric Paquette will return to the lineup tonight, having missed six games with an upper body injury.

Lightning center Cedric Paquette will return to the lineup tonight, having missed six games with an upper body injury.

"I'm ready to go," Paquette said. "Today is the day."

And, as of today, coach Jon Cooper said there are no plans to send C Vladislav Namestnikov, on an emergeny recall, back to AHL Syracuse, but that could change by Friday; Cooper hinted there might be another short-term injury among his forward group (possibly Brenden Morrow).

But first, Paquette coming back will be a big boost to the lineup, a gritty, hard to play against, key cog on penalty kill. After having the same upper body he had in February emerge earlier this month, Paquette said he took a few extra days to make sure he was 100 percent.

"I think this time of year, obviously you have to play a little bit banged up," Paquette said. "I try to be healthy enough to play, I waited a couple days to be fully healthy."

Namestnikov, 22, who has been on an emegency recall, played well enough to stick around, with Cooper saying it's hard to take him out of the lineup. But if Tampa Bay decides to keep him up, it'll be forced to use the third of four alotted post-deadline call-ups. The Lightning already has used two. …

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Paquette to return on road trip, Vasilevskiy starts tonight

Craig Paquette has missed five games with an upper body injury.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Craig Paquette has missed five games with an upper body injury.

It looks like C Cedric Paquette won't be returning on this homestand.

Paquette, who has missed five games with an upper body injury, continued to skate in a regular colored jersey this morning, but wasn't part of line rushes. Coach Jon Cooper said there's no update, but indicated Paquette would return on the upcoming five-game road trip, which begins Saturday in Detroit.

When Paquette comes back, it'll make for a tough decision for the Lightning. C Vladislav Namestnikov, on an emergency recall, has been playing really well. But in order for Namestnikov not to count towards the four alotted post-deadline call-ups, he'd have to get returned to AHL Syracuse when Paquette is ready. The Lightning could also keep Namestnikov up, giving them just one call-up remaining. Cooper said Sunday that Namestnikov is making his case to stick around.

"Healthy, we need to get healthy, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "Not even worried about who's in, who's out, it's about getting guys healthy, and then we can make that decision." …

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Ben Bishop named NHL's Third Star for last week

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.

Bishop went 3-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .935 save percentage with big wins over the Canadiens, Red Wings and Bruins. A Vezina Trophy finalist last season, Bishop has been on the top of his game in recent weeks, winning eight of his last 10 starts.

Bishop is 36-11-4 with a 2.31 GAA, .916 save percentage and three shutouts in 55 games. He needs just one more victory to tie the club record he set last season.

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and Senators center Kyle Turris were named the No. 1 and No. 2 stars.

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Ondrej Palat to return tonight against Red Wings

The Lightning's Ondrej Palat gets tangled up with the Canadiens' P.K. Subban as they battle for position during a March 10 game in Montreal.

[Getty Images]

The Lightning's Ondrej Palat gets tangled up with the Canadiens' P.K. Subban as they battle for position during a March 10 game in Montreal.

After feeling good in the morning skate, Lightning wing Ondrej Palat declared himself ready to return tonight against the Red Wings.

"100-percent," he said.

Palat, who missed the last three games with a lower body injury, will give a big boost to the lineup, especially the Triplets line of Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.

"He makes that line work," coach Jon Cooper said. "So getting him back is big for us."

The Lightning is expecting a fired-up Red Wings team, considering Detroit enters having lost four of seven, including Thursday night in Sunrise. The Red Wings trail Tampa Bay by six points, though with two games in hand, for second place in the Atlantic Division.

The Lightning has beaten Detroit six of the last seven meetings, including both this season, 5-1 here Jan. 29.

"Obviously they're a good team, they're right at the top of the division," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "They've got good speed, good tempo to the game. When you've got a good team, good depth, even when you have injuries, it's an opportunity for other people. Last time in here I thought we had a good game and our goalie couldn't get hit. So we've got to be a little better." …

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Ondrej Palat could return Friday against Red Wings

Ondrej Palat, expected to be out 2-3 weeks when injured last Tuesday against Montreal, could return Friday night when the Lightning hosts the Red Wings at Amalie.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ondrej Palat, expected to be out 2-3 weeks when injured last Tuesday against Montreal, could return Friday night when the Lightning hosts the Red Wings at Amalie.

Lightning wing Ondrej Palat appears ahead of schedule in his recovery from a lower-body injury, participating fully in Thursday's practice in a regular-colored jersey.

Palat, expected to be out 2-3 weeks when injured last Tuesday against Montreal, could return Friday night when the Lightning hosts the Red Wings at Amalie.

"Hopefully," coach Jon Cooper said. "There's tough players, and then there's Palat."

Cooper said they originally thought Palat would be back by Sunday's game against Boston, but he may be a few days early. Palat looked good in Thursday's practice, competing in all drills, skating on his Triplets line with Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, while being on the second power play unit. Palat said he felt good, but will know for sure Friday if he can play.

Palat has 15 goals, 37 assists and is fifth in the league at a plus-28.

"He's a big key to the line, those three guys together have been unreal for us this year," Cooper said.  "He plays in every situation. He plays on the power play, he penalty kills. He's out there in the last minute whether we're up or down a goal. You look at the entirety, that's a pretty tough guy to lose." …

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NHL imposes no supplemental discipline for Nikita Kucherov hit

Tampa Bay Lightning Nikita Kucherov celebrates as he scores the deflection off the Radko Gudas shot to score the first goal against the Arizona Coyotes in Tampa at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (10/28/14).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning Nikita Kucherov celebrates as he scores the deflection off the Radko Gudas shot to score the first goal against the Arizona Coyotes in Tampa at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (10/28/14).

Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov will not face supplemental discipline from the NHL for his hit on Winnipeg's Tobias Enstrom in Saturday's game.

There wasn't even a hearing scheduled.

Kucherov was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct in the third period, when he hit Enstrom into the boards while chasing a puck deep in the Winnipeg zone. Enstrom got to the puck first to retrieve it, and appeared to back up as Kucherov delivered the hit.  Enstrom skated off the ice covering his bloody face with a towel.

 

Kucherov said he hadn't heard anything from the league, pointing out he had no malicious intent on the play.

"It was an awkward spot," Kucherov said. "I don't think I could have done something else there. It just happens. I didn't mean it, it was an accident." …

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Matt Carle officially returning tonight

TAMPA – Defenseman Matt Carle will be back in the lineup for the Lightning tonight.

Carle has missed the last two months while recovering from abdominal surgery.

Carle said the timing for his return isn’t perfect, because he didn’t want to sit out at all. But it’s not bad, either, considering the team will be without defenseman Braydon Coburn for the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury.

“It’s good timing, in a sense,” Carle said. “I’m just going to try to come back, keep things simple and try to get back in the flow of things.”  

Carle said he doesn’t know how his body will react to a full game. His health is “good enough” to get back into real action.

“Obviously I’m pretty rested,” Carle said. “I haven’t played in two months. The guys have been going and grinding it out every other day pretty much, playing in games. In that sense, my legs are there. It’s just a matter of getting them back. When the playoffs go, I feel like I should be pretty fresh.”

A few other quick notes from today’s morning skate before the Lightning hosts the Jets tonight at Amalie Arena:

* Coach Jon Cooper seems to be settling on some new lines, after the injuries to Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat. …

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Lightning's Coburn out 4-6 weeks; Paquette and Palat out too

Veteran Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn out four to six weeks with a lower body injury.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Veteran Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn out four to six weeks with a lower body injury.

The Lightning's 1-0 win over the Canadiens Tuesday might have turned into one of it's biggest losses.

Three key players were hurt in that game, with veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn out four to six weeks with a lower body injury, forward Ondrej Palat (lower body) out two to three weeks, and Cedric Paquette (upper body) out 10-14 days. The good news is they are all expected to be back by the time playoffs start.

But it still comes at a bad time for the Lightning, which is playing its best hockey of the season and entered Thursday's game just one point behind first place Montreal in the Atlantic Division with one month before the playoffs. …

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Lightning recalls Mike Angelidis from Syracuse Crunch

The Lightning has recalled forward Mike Angelidis from AHL-Syracuse, the team announced Thursday morning.

The move comes two days after forwards Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat were injured in a win over Montreal. X-rays were fine on Palat, who took a shot off of his foot, but more information about Paquette’s injury wasn’t available Wednesday.

Angelidis is second on the Crunch with 17 goals and is fourth on the team with 33 points. He has one goal in seven career NHL games.

The Lightning plays at Boston tonight.

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Banged-up Lightning hopes to beat "Big, Bad Bruins"

The Lightning is coming off a big win, a 1-0 overtime victory over the first-place Canadiens in Montreal Tuesday.

But it was a costly one.

Forwards Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette, along with veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn, were all injured in that game. None of them practiced Wednesday in Boston, and coach Jon Cooper was uncertain on their status for Thursday's game against the Bruins.

"I have no idea," Cooper said. "All three of them could play. All three of them couldn't. It's unfortunate. Because we don't know what to do."

Palat took a shot off his foot in the second period, with Cooper saying x-rays were okay. Paquette and Coburn's injuries were undisclosed. The good news for the Lightning is right wing J.T. Brown, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, is a possibility to return. Defenseman Matt Carle (abdominal surgery) won't play Thursday but could return Saturday.

Got all that? It'll make for interesting decisions whether Tampa Bay has to make a call-up from AHL Syracuse (Jonathan Marchessault, Carter Ashton, Tanner Richard?). …

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Matt Carle will have to play through soreness if he returns

Lightning veteran defenseman Matt Carle continued to ramp up his rehab from January abdominal surgery, participating in battle drills after Tuesday's practice at the Bell Centre.

Getty Images

Lightning veteran defenseman Matt Carle continued to ramp up his rehab from January abdominal surgery, participating in battle drills after Tuesday's practice at the Bell Centre.

Lightning veteran defenseman Matt Carle continued to ramp up his rehab from January abdominal surgery, participating in battle drills after Tuesday's practice at the Bell Centre.

But Carle said there's "nothing new" to report, unable to say for certain if he'll return to the lineup Thursday in Boston or this weekend.

A key will be how Carle is able to handle soreness he's experiencing, realizing it's something he'll be dealing with for a while.

"It's been there for some time, I'm coming to the realization that's probably going to be the case for a while,' Carle said. "I'ts just being comfortable with it, and knowing how it's going to react in certain situations and being okay with it. When I first started skating, those kind of things made me really nervous. Now that it's been there for a while, it's something I'm used to." …

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