Vasilevskiy starts tonight, Namestnikov scratched

Published Dec. 1, 2016

In what at the very least is an interesting move, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in net for the Lightning tonight against the Blues.

It's the first time this season Vasilevskiy, 22, will be starting back-to-back games.

This appeared like a game Bishop would start, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist typically starting two out of every three games this season. Plus this is Bishop's hometown. He's started all three Lightning games in St. Louis since he's been here, albeit is 0-2-1 in those games.

However, the Lightning is going with Vasilevskiy, who has been off to a strong start this season (6-2-1, 1.89 goals against average) in nine starts. Bishop is 7-8-0 with a 3.04 GAA in 15 starts. Coach Jon Cooper said the other day you have to "stay the course" with the No. 1 in Bishop.

But the Lightning (13-10-1), having lost three straight, badly needs a win. With Tampa Bay having not won in St. Louis since 2009, maybe coach Jon Cooper is trying to shake things up. Can't imagine this is sitting well with Bishop.

It's not the only twist in the Lightning lineup. Vladislav Namestnikov, who has struggled recently, will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season. For Namestnikov, who at one point was playing first-line wing with captain Steven Stamkos, it's been a difficult stretch.

"With everything that wasn't going for me, maybe a mental break will be good," Namestnikov said. Just got to work hard, and get back in lineup. I guess things like this happen in players' careers. You've got to work through it."

Namestnikov is a minus-six in his last two games. "I know what I have to do better," Namestnikov said. "I have to be more physical, and be harder on pucks."

The Lightning will inject some energy into the lineup with callups Michael Bournival and Joel Vermin, who are expected to play. It was a long travel day yesterday, from St. John's, with a several hour delay in Toronto. "A little adventure," Vermin said.

But it was well worth it for both, especially Bournival, who made the long road back from concussion issues that forced him to miss a good chunk of last season. He hasn't played in the NHL since 2014-15 with Montreal.

"I'm really excited," he said. ""I'm very proud of what I did to get back in the NHL. Now I've got an opportunity to prove myself."

Bournival's strength is his speed, energy on the forecheck. And like last fall, when Syracuse callups provided a spark, Vermin hopes they can do the same. "We've been rolling in Syracuse, I think our confidence is up," Vermin said. "It'll be important to get some power to the other guys so we can get back on a winning streak."

It looks like the Lightning will get a boost in the return of Anton Stralman, who missed the last nine games with an upper body injury. If Stralman comes back, Luke Witkowski will likely be sent down to Syracuse. Slater Koekkoek will be a healthy scratch.

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Ryan Callahan (lower body) is on injured reserve, so wouldn't expect him back until after this weekend's back to back.