TAMPA — D Anton Stralman insists he's not tired.
You can't blame him if he is.
Stralman, 29, entered Thursday's game against the Rangers leading the NHL in most games played since the start of the 2013-14 season, 234. That's largely a by-product of appearing in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals, in 2014 with the Rangers and 2015 with Tampa Bay.
With that workload, associate coach Rick Bowness said, it's important to manage the veteran's minutes. Stralman was averaging 21:36, second on the team to D Victor Hedman (21:42). He played 22:53 Thursday.
"I'd like to keep him around 20 minutes," Bowness said. "But if I need him to play 24, I need him to play 24. We watch his minutes very closely."
With the Lightning needing its 2-1 win Thursday, Stralman was extended a minute over his average. But in Monday's 1-0 loss to the Panthers, he was at 19:24, just his fourth game under 20 minutes this season.
Having a third right-shot defenseman in Luke Witkowski, called up Thursday, should help when Tampa Bay goes with seven defensemen. Coach Jon Cooper said they give Stralman a morning skate or practice off if he needs.
"I don't look at it as being a burden in any way," Stralman said. "I'm a hockey player. I love what I do. When you do it that much, it's a good thing. I'm sure if I felt that I wasn't playing well enough or for whatever reason not feeling good enough about me and my game or fatigue … but I don't feel that way."
NBCSN analyst Keith Jones suggested on a recent broadcast Hedman should play more. Hedman has logged 23 or more minutes six times. His high is 24:18.
"He can probably handle 28 minutes if I asked him," Bowness said. "That's not ideal for a big man like that. He … does a lot of skating in a shift. You can't do that for 24, 26 minutes. But if a game is under control and it's a three-quarter game for him, he can handle more."
TAMPACUSE: The Lightning's shuttle from AHL Syracuse continued Thursday, with Witkowski and C Mike Angelidis called up from the Crunch. D Matt Taormina was sent back.
The moves were necessitated by Tampa Bay's injuries, with forwards Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed), Tyler Johnson (upper body), Cedric Paquette (upper body) and Ryan Callahan (lower body) missing Thursday's game. LW Joel Vermin, called up Wednesday, made his NHL debut, looking poised in an impressive all-around performance. "A dream come true," he said.
Callahan, who participated in Thursday's skate, was a game-time decision and could return Saturday against the Ducks. Johnson skated in a red no-contact) jersey before practice and is considered day to day, like Drouin. Paquette is on injured reserve, so he can't come back until after Saturday's game.
GM Steve Yzerman said Witkowski was called up because the Lightning wanted another right-shot defenseman. Plus, Yzerman said, it wanted D Nikita Nesterov to play more regularly and get in a "groove."
NUTS AND BOLTS: Former Lightning assistant Adam Oates, now an independent consultant, visited the team.