TAMPA — G Andrei Vasilevskiy was assigned to AHL Syracuse on Friday for the first in what might be a few stints down the stretch to keep him fresh.
With G Ben Bishop expected to get most of the starts, and a schedule that doesn't include many back-to-backs, the Lightning wants Vasilevskiy to get more playing time.
Vasilevskiy is expected to start for the Crunch tonight against Binghamton. Kristers Gudlevskis was recalled and was Bishop's backup Friday.
"This is not a situation where (Vasilevskiy) is going down there to stay down there," coach Jon Cooper said. "If we have a situation where Vasilevskiy can go down and play games and come back and play for us, that's what we want."
Vasilevskiy, who missed the first month of the season after vascular surgery, has made 15 starts for the Lightning (8-5, 2.73 goals-against average) but has played just two games since Jan. 27.
"It's tough to sit there for weeks on end and come in and get games," Cooper said. "We want him to play. He's still very much in his development stage. We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't play him as much as we could."
The Crunch also plays Wednesday, Feb. 19 and Feb. 20, so Vasilevskiy could stay with Syracuse through part of next week.
STEPPING UP: D Slater Koekkoek certainly took a unique path in his latest callup from AHL Syracuse.
Koekkoek, 21, said he had flight layovers in Halifax and Washington on his way from Newfoundland to Tampa. It took him more than 12 hours, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and he ate all three meals at the airport.
"A heck of a day," he said. "But if it means coming up, I'll do it whenever."
Koekkoek, a first-round pick in 2012, will help fill in for D 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, was scratched Friday.
"He's here for a reason," Cooper said. "We're 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 (Friday), 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," he said.
NUMBERS GAME: RW Jonathan Marchessault, who was scratched, has a new number (81), switching from 42. Marchessault said he has worn No. 18 since he was 16 years old, and with 18 taken by LW Ondrej Palat, he switched to 81.
MILESTONE: RW Ryan Callahan played his 600th career game Friday, gratifying for the 2004 fourth-round pick. "It goes by so fast, it doesn't feel like I've played 600 games in this league," he said. "You definitely take a minute after the game to realize how far I've come and where it began and where it started."
SWEDE SCOUTS: Hall of Fame D Nicklas Lidstrom was at Friday's game scouting for Team Sweden for September's World Cup, along with coach Rikard Gronberg. Lidstrom said D Victor Hedman and D Anton Stralman are "in the mix" for their roster, adding it helps that the pair plays well together.
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