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Jonathan Marchessault fights for Lightning roster spot

 
Jonathan Marchessault, tied up against the Stars on Thursday, played in four Lightning games last season, two in the playoffs.
Jonathan Marchessault, tied up against the Stars on Thursday, played in four Lightning games last season, two in the playoffs.
Published Oct. 3, 2015

TAMPA — C Jonathan Marchessault considered Thursday's exhibition against the Stars a big game for him, and his desperation showed in a team-high four shots.

With the Lightning planning to keep 13 forwards, Marchessault, 24, is fighting for a spot, though he will likely be the odd-man out, barring injuries.

If so, Marchessault would have to clear waivers to be sent down to AHL Syracuse, making for an uncertain situation.

"You don't know what's going to happen," Marchessault said. "But it's part of the job and position I'm in."

But Marchessault, acquired from the Blue Jackets at the 2013 trade deadline, has earned the trust of Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who put the 5-foot-9 forward in the lineup for two playoff games last season. And, Cooper hopes, it won't be the last time Marchessault impacts Tampa Bay's lineup.

"He's coming into camp and gone from maybe someone that was a bit of a wild card to somebody who is a bona fide NHLer knocking at the door," Cooper said.

"He's just another guy that can play for us. You want to have guys like that."

Marchessault has three 20-plus-goal seasons in the AHL, including 24 goals last season for the Crunch, but brings a well-rounded game.

"He's one of those guys that grinds," said All-Star C Tyler Johnson, who used to hate playing against Marchessault in the AHL.

"He can literally play it all. He can be a first-line guy or play the fourth line. He has that grit, has that skill, a very versatile player."

Marchessault, who has played in six career NHL games, has confidence he can be at the NHL level, gaining a lot from his short stint in the playoffs.

"Hopefully," he says, "It's the start of something."

ON TARGET: RW J.T. Brown has often been snakebitten when it comes to scoring, especially during last season's playoffs.

But Brown came through with the winner in Thursday's 3-2 victory over Dallas, ripping a wrist shot just under the right post with five minutes left. Brown, who tends to miss high, has lowered his sight line and gotten shots off quicker, which has paid off with more goals in camp.

"I hope it's a learning experience for all our guys," Cooper said. "(Goals don't) have to be tictactos and tap-ins from inches away. Shoot the puck and good things will happen."

COOL-HAND LUKE: D Luke Witkowski is known for his physical presence, as shown in his fight Thursday. But Witkowski also made an impressive end-to-end rush, a sign of how much Cooper said he has improved with the puck in this camp.

"He's not afraid to make some plays," Cooper said. "You love the fight in him, not literally, but you love the way the kid is a gamer, guts things out, plays physical. Opposing teams know when he's on the ice. It's his skill level playing the puck that keeps upgrading. Good for us."

TUNE-UP: Most of the regulars, including C Steven Stamkos, were expected to play in tonight's exhibition finale against the Panthers in Sunrise. The Lightning (2-3-1) believes it needs to clean up a few things before the regular-season opener Thursday against the Flyers. "It hasn't been the best preseason for us," C Brian Boyle said.

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NUTS AND BOLTS: The Lightning's practice Monday at 11 a.m. at Germain Arena in Estero is open to the public. … Sun Sports will show a 30-minute preseason special at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and re-air it several times until Thursday's opener.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.