PHILADELPHIA — Alex Volkov earned another look in the NHL. The forward was recalled Friday for Saturday’s 1-0 win against the Flyers in case Ondřej Palát was unable to play. Palat, whose status has been called day-to-day, didn’t play, so Volkov was in.
The Lightning have a few forward options in Syracuse. Mathieu Joseph has been there for a couple of weeks. Alex Barre-Boulet entered Saturday leading the Crunch with 31 points and 14 goals.
Volkov played four games on his first callup, which led into the trip to Sweden in November, then went back to AHL Syracuse. What was it about him that he got another look this time?
Part of it is about fit — where a player will play in the lineup. Coach Jon Cooper likes Volkov for a third-line role with Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon. (Palat’s injury moved Alex Killorn back to the second line with Anthony Cirelli.)
“We think he can help us win,” Cooper said before the game. “He came up the last time and performed well when he was with us. He has size (6 feet 1, 191 pounds); he can skate. He did all the things we asked, and then he went back to Syracuse and worked on his game.”
Volkov has been playing well with the Crunch. He has 12 points in 22 games since returning to the AHL and is playing with confidence.
The second recall is a natural progression. Volkov, 22 and a 2017 draft pick, didn’t get a taste of the NHL in his first two seasons in Syracuse, got one early this season and earned another.
“The first callup, the kid’s just hoping to survive,” Cooper said. “The second one, you’re hoping there’s a little bit of progress. You don’t want to put pressure on them; they put enough pressure on themselves.”
Volkov had a couple of good looks early in Saturday’s game. He didn’t have a point. He did have two shots, one hit and one block.
Volkov’s first-period shot, with two teammates right with him, was an example of his progress. A young player will often pass in that situation, and maybe Volkov could have, but taking the shot is a sign of confidence.
Pat Maroon hurt again
Pat Maroon left the game early in the third period. He was hooked by Kevin Hayes and slid into the boards awkwardly, right shoulder first.
By ducking his head, Maroon avoided a probably worse head-first collision, but the shoulder bore the brunt of the contact. He held the shoulder, hopped up and quickly skated to the bench.
Head athletic trainer Tom Mulligan checked Maroon out on the bench before the forward headed down the tunnel toward the dressing room.
Cooper did not have an update after the game, saying Maroon was wearing too many ice bags to see what was going on.
Maroon also left Thursday’s game against the Coyotes early. He took an elbow to the face in the second period and did not return.
In other injury news, Palat could be available Sunday at the Devils. Ryan McDonagh, who has missed four games since taking an elbow to the head in Ottawa on Jan. 4, did not make the two-game trip. The plan was for him to skate in Tampa and for his status to be upgraded to day-to-day upon the team’s return.
Victor Hedman going solo
Defenseman Victor Hedman will be going to the All-Star Game as the lone Lightning representative.
The NHL announced the winners of the “last man in” fan vote, and the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner will represent the Atlantic Division. Steven Stamkos was the Lightning’s nominee.
Stamkos will miss his first All-Star Game since his rookie season, 2008-09, other than the 2016-17 season, when he was injured and played only 17 games.
This will be the first year the Lightning has sent only one player since 2012, when Stamkos was the lone representative.
Washington’s TJ Oshie (Metropolitan), St. Louis’ David Perron (Central) and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes (Pacific) were also voted into the game.
Some bling for Nikita Kucherov
In the category of honors that don’t mean anything … EA Sports named a 2019 NHL team of the year. Nikita Kucherov was voted its right wing.
The video game company named nominees and opened the voting to the public. Kucherov is joined by Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Brent Burns, John Carlson and Jordan Binnington.
Kucherov was presented with a pair of gold-trimmed skates (color, not metal), for the honor.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.