Lightning sends three to Syracuse, roster almost set

The team gets to 24; one more move beckons before the opener.
Though he impressed in camp, Jonathan Marchessault was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Though he impressed in camp, Jonathan Marchessault was sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
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Updated

TAMPA — The Lightning's final roster became clearer on Monday.

But it's not completely set.

By sending forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Cedric Paquette and defenseman Luke Witkowski to Syracuse of the American Hockey League, Tampa Bay got down to 24 players.

Now settling on the 23 for Thursday's season opener against the Panthers at Amalie Arena is a bit tricky.

"I have an idea," general manager Steve Yzerman said.

Veteran left wing Brenden Morrow (back spasms) will be put on injured reserve, retroactive to Thursday, which will get Tampa Bay down to 23 by today's 5 p.m. deadline. If Morrow, who missed the last three preseason games but has been skating the past three practices, is ready to go Thursday, another move will have to be made.

"It gives me a couple more days to decide," Yzerman said.

Touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin, 19, will be on the roster, as Yzerman said he doesn't expect to put him on IR. Drouin, out since Sept. 18 with a right thumb fracture, was cleared to do more in Monday's practice, participating in drills and shooting, albeit still in a red no-contact jersey. "It's exciting," he said.

It's unclear when Drouin will be ready to play for the Lightning, with Yzerman saying a conditioning assignment with Syracuse is possible.

The big winner Monday was center Vladislav Namestnikov, 21, who made the team — at least for now — after a strong training camp. Namestnikov, who had a four-game call-up last season, racked up seven assists in the preseason, showing he was stronger with the puck and forming obvious chemistry with wing Nikita Kucherov, who had six goals.

"He's an intelligent player and a good skater, a year older and a little stronger, little heavier," Yzerman said. "He's just getting used to playing against NHL players. He did very well in the preseason, and we're very anxious to see how he does in the regular season."

Brett Connolly and Richard Panik made the team, as expected, as both would have to clear waivers to get sent down. Both had their best camps with the Lightning, making the decision easy.

If Morrow is ready Thursday, Namestnikov or defenseman Andrej Sustr can be sent down without clearing waivers. No players were put on waivers Monday, Yzerman said.

Marchessault, Paquette and Witkowski impressed in camp. Said Yzerman: "They're a phone call away."

The roster: Forwards — Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, Brian Boyle, J.T. Brown, Namestnikov, Kucherov, Connolly, Panik, Drouin, and Morrow if he's healthy. Defenseman — Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison, Radko Gudas, Matt Carle, Eric Brewer, Sustr, Mark Barberio. Goalies — Ben Bishop, Evgeni Nabokov.

"I like our mind-set," Cooper said. "I like our players. I like our compete (level) and like the way they've progressively played in the preseason. I'm happy. I like what we have going. I've got a good feeling about our group and a big part of that is how all the new guys have seamlessly fit in and that really helped the process."

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