TAMPA — The Lightning are out of players. Everyone who is healthy was set to play in Thursday’s game against the Oilers, and even then the team had to put a defenseman in at forward.
Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli were all unavailable for the game. That left the Lightning with only 11 healthy forwards, forcing a lineup of seven defensemen.
Well, technically, they were left with 10 healthy forwards and one roster spot. The Lightning recalled Alex Volkov to fill that opening.
To bring up another forward from the AHL, the Lightning would have had to put one of the aforementioned players on injured reserve. All three are considered day-to-day and would have to miss at least three games to go on IR.
Stamkos missed his third game, while dealing with a lingering issue. Coach Jon Cooper had hoped he’d be able to play Thursday. Stamkos was on the ice for morning skate, but did not take line rushes and left early.
Cirelli left after the first period of Tuesday’s overtime win over Pittsburgh after blocking Evgeni Malkin’s shot. Kucherov left the same game at the end of the second period, after being pinched along the boards awkwardly.
Cooper said none is expected to be out long.
The Oilers have their own injury issues. Connor McDavid, a name that sells tickets, will be out for two to three weeks with a quad injury. Edmonton does still have the league’s leading scorer in Leon Draisaitl, who is on pace to beat the 127 points Kucherov posted last season.
Defenseman Cameron Gaunce will made his season debut, and his NHL debut at forward, playing on the third line with Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon. He was recalled last Friday after both Jan Rutta and Ryan McDonagh were hurt, as insurance against another injury.
Volkov slotted in on the fourth line with fellow rookies Carter Verhaeghe and Mitchell Stephens, while Yanni Gourde shifted up to the top line.
This is Volkov’s third recall this season and Thursday was his ninth game. On his first NHL look, on Oct. 30, Volkov played with Stamkos and Kucherov. On his next stint, in January, he played in a bottom-six role with less pressure.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at email@example.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.