Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Patchwork Lightning team faces must-win game Tuesday vs. Arizona

TAMPA — A glance around the Lightning dressing room after Monday's practice showed five players who opened the season at AHL Syracuse, a backup goalie who won 27 games this season with the Kings and a fourth-line center who began the year with high expectations for the Panthers.

Yep. Just how they drew it up when the Lightning opened the season Oct. 13 against Detroit with its sights set on hoisting the Stanley Cup.

"It's a weird year," center Greg McKegg said.

McKegg, who started the season with the Panthers, was claimed off waivers Feb. 27. He left one team scrambling for its playoff life for another. Nothing has really changed, he said, "just the uniform."

Backup goalie Peter Budaj came from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade. He split his first two starts for the Lightning, earning two big points for his team with a victory against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, the Syracuse Shuttle has left Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde, Jake Dotchin and Luke Witkowski in the dressing room. Joel Vermin, sent back to the Crunch on Sunday, was recalled Monday for tonight's game. Byron Froese, acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade, played two games before being sent back to Syracuse.

"It's kind of been crazy," Dumont said. "Even at the beginning of the year I was hurt and guys were getting called up and called up and called up and then I get here and people just kept coming."

Re-signing Steven Stamkos and keeping Bishop for another season before he turned free agent was the blueprint for what was projected to be a long and successful playoff run.

We know what went wrong. Injuries, poor play then the trades and now the Lightning find themselves on the outside of a playoff spot facing the visiting Coyotes tonight in a must-win game.

But you can't blame the new faces, many of them rookies. In fact, you can credit them for keeping the team afloat.

"They're doing all they can to help us win," coach Jon Cooper said.

"They've done a great job so far," added J.T. Brown. "Everybody who has come up as stepped in and played well."

Gourde's first NHL goal — and only NHL goal so far — tied the score at 2-2 on March 11 against the Panthers and helped the Lightning rally from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win.

Dumont had a key goal in the win at New York. Witkowski, a defenseman, was a healthy scratch in nine consecutive games and now finds himself playing on the wing.

"They ask me to play forward, I'm not going to say no," Witkowski said. "I was sitting out for nine games in a row. I'm going to do whatever I need to do. We all are."

Witkowski began the year as captain of the Crunch. Dotchin filmed a promo video for the Crunch, lip-synching to Beyonce. Now he's a top-pairing defenseman with Victor Hedman.

"Having guys step up and ready to play in the NHL, it's not an easy league to play in, but these guys have done a really good job getting acclimated to us and acclimated to the way we play," Hedman said.

NOTEWORTHY: Center Vladislav Namestnikov (lower body) participated Monday in practice and said he expects to play tonight. Center Cedric Paquette (lower body) skated Monday for the first time since suffering his injury March 9 but wore a red no-contact jersey. Center Tyler Johnson (lower body) did not practice.

Comments
A fan's guide to the fun and celebrities at Tampa's NHL All-Star Game

A fan's guide to the fun and celebrities at Tampa's NHL All-Star Game

So you don’t have a ticket to the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Tampa, but you still want to feel like you’re in on the action. No problem. “Our mindset is, few are honored with a ticket to the game,” said Steve Mayer, the N...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Louis Domingue gets start, relishing second chance with Lightning

Louis Domingue gets start, relishing second chance with Lightning

Louis Domingue is back to his old rookie days.He's living in a hotel, unsure how long he'll stick in the NHL. All the Tampa Bay backup goalie knows is he's starting tonight against Nashville.But Domingue, 25, doesn't mind at all, considering he nearl...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jones: Tampa Bay needs a playoff push. Save us, Lightning

Jones: Tampa Bay needs a playoff push. Save us, Lightning

Stammer. Vasy. Kuuuuch.It's up to you guys now.Heddy. Johnnie. Coop.We need you now more than ever.A community turns its lonely eyes to you, Tampa Bay Lightning. Time to save us. You're all we have.The Rays? Pitchers and catchers and allegedly Matt D...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to MVP form for Lightning

Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to MVP form for Lightning

Nobody in the Lightning dressing room was worried about goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.Sure, Vasilevskiy had allowed 23 goals in his last five starts, with just one win. It was his first tough stretch in his first full season as No. 1, even though it ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blackhawks

CHICAGO — Turns out, Andrei Vasilevskiy is all right.And, believe it or not, so is the Lightning’s penalty kill, which was the unlikely hero in Monday’s streak-snapping 2-0 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center.Vasilevskiy, 23, played like the...
Published: 01/22/18
Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

Lightning angered by slash that has Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks

CHICAGO — The Lightning got more bad news Monday with wing Ondrej Palat out 6-8 weeks with a lower-body injury. It’s a big blow to a struggling Tampa Bay team, which is now without its top defense­man (Victor Hedman) and now arguably its best defensi...
Published: 01/22/18

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Blackhawks

Matt Peca and Michael Bournival likely won’t be the last callups by the Lightning the next month or so. There are plenty of other deserving candidates at AHL Syracuse, with Adam Erne likely getting a shot had he not been injured. With Ondrej Palat ou...
Published: 01/22/18

NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition gets some changes

Skills Competition gets a new lookThe NHL switched up its format for Saturday’s All-Star Game Skills Competition (7 p.m, NBSCN). There will be six events, including the traditional hardest shot, accuracy shooting, plus a passing challenge, puck contr...
Published: 01/22/18
Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

Lightning’s Ondrej Palat to be out six to eight weeks

The Lightning will be without Ondrej Palat six to eight weeks. And  Tampa Bay is still ticked by how Palat got hurt.The Wild's Jared Spurgeon slashed/speared the back of the Lightning wing's right ankle on a power play Saturday."It's a huge loss...
Published: 01/22/18
Matt Peca, Michael Bournival hope to spark Lightning

Matt Peca, Michael Bournival hope to spark Lightning

When Matt Peca had his best training camp with the Lightning back in September, coach Jon Cooper said he learned the 5-foot-9 forward was someone the Lightning would be able to count on at some point this season.Turns out, that time is now.Peca, 27, ...
Published: 01/22/18