TAMPA — Erik Cernak left the dressing room with a limp after Sunday’s win over Florida. He missed the morning skate before Tuesday’s game against Calgary.
Jon Cooper called Cernak day-to-day with a “lower-body injury." In Cernak’s place, Jan Rutta was on the ice Tuesday morning. To make space for Rutta, Mathieu Joseph has been reassigned to the AHL.
Back when the season started, Joseph was something of a surprise on the season-opening roster. The rookie spent all of last season with Syracuse, but has not played there this year. He has played 48 games with the Lightning this year. Joseph has let up from his initial offensive production but has 20 points for Tampa Bay.
Rutta’s presence indicates this could be closer to a week than a game out for Cernak.
It’s unlikely the Lightning would bring Rutta up to sit in the stands for one game. If the coaches and management wanted, they could have waited to see how Cernak does on Wednesday and then make the move for Thursday’s game, as needed. If the team has brought up Rutta, it’s likely because Cernak is out for some stretch of time. It might only be the week, but it’s unlikely the one game.
The Lightning did not have a roster spot for Rutta as it was and needed to either put someone on injured reserve, or send one of its waiver-exempt players to the Crunch. That meant Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Cernak or Joseph.
With the roster moves and Cernak’s injury, both Ryan Callahan and Danick Martel are in the lineup on Tuesday against Calgary. Rutta is a healthy scratch.
Tampa Bay traded Slater Koekkoek for Rutta on Jan. 11, in part because he had already cleared waivers and the Lightning needed a roster spot. If Rutta plays fewer than 10 games or is on the NHL roster for fewer than 30 days, he will not need to clear waivers again.
*Correction: This story has been updated to indicate that Rutta does not have to clear waivers if he in the NHL for fewer than 30 days or 10 games.