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Lightning narrows roster down to 24

Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer

Monday, October 6, 2014 4:42pm

The Lightning's final roster became clearer on Monday.

But it's not completely set yet.

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

Now settling on the 23 it will start the season with in Thursday's 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.

But touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin, 19, will be on the roster, with Yzerman saying he doesn't expect putting him on IR. Drouin, who has been out since Sept. 18 with a right thumb fracture, was cleared to do more in Monday's practice, participating in drills and even shooting. "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 will be a consideration.

The big winner Monday was center Vladislav Namestnikov, 21, who has made the team - at least for a few days - 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 having to go through waivers. No players were put on waivers by Monday's noon deadline, Yzerman said.

Though Marchessault, Paquette and Witkowski got cut, they impressed in camp. "They're not far away," Yzerman said. "They're a phone call away."

As of now, the roster includes forwards Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, Valteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, Brian Boyle, J.T. Brown, Namestnikov, Kucherov, Connolly, Panik. On defense, it'll be Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison, Radko Gudas, Matt Carle, Eric Brewer, Sustr and Mark Barberio. Ben Bishop and Evgeni Nabokov are the goalies. Morrow will be on roster if he's healthy.

"I like our mindset," Cooper said. "I like our players. I like our compete 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."