The Tampa Bay Lightning could get a true defensive depth test tonight against Toronto.
Slater Koekkoek, the 10th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has been recalled and could make his NHL debut this evening in place of Victor Hedman, who’s questionable after barely playing in the third period of Monday’s win over Montreal.
Should Hedman miss, he’d join fellow blueliners Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn on the shelf. Garrison, who suffered an upper-body injury on a questionable hit from Detroit’ Justin Abdelakder over the weekend, is out 3-4 weeks; Coburn, who suffered a lower-body injury earlier this month, isn’t expected back until the playoffs at the earliest.
While those ailments have made for some tough times on defense, the Bolts have to be excited about Koekkoek’s arrival. The 21-year-old is enjoying a solid campaign with AHL Syracuse — 24 points in 66 games — and has some serious pedigree, the seventh d-man taken in first round absolutely loaded with quality defensemen (like Hampus Lindholm, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba, Cody Ceci, Olli Maatta, Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba and Derrick Pouliot.)
Tough times in Tampa: Garrison out 3-4 weeks after ‘pretty dirty’ Abdelkader hit
Already without the services of Braydon Coburn and still upset from Saturday’s 4-0 spanking in Detroit, the Bolts learned today that key defenseman Jason Garrison would miss the next 3-4 weeks with an injury suffered on a questionable hit from Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
The Lightning also announced that fellow blueliner Andrej Sustr would miss 1-2 weeks. Both he and Garrison are listed with upper-body ailments.
The bigger loss of the two is Garrison, who’s enjoying a solid campaign. The 30-year-old had four goals and 30 points through 70 games this year — third on the team in d-man scoring — and received huge praise from head coach Jon Cooper.
“[Garrison] is a man out there,” Cooper recently told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “He defends really well, he skates. He’s really hard to play against. And, usually, nine times out of 10 if he’s going into the corner with somebody, he’s the guy coming out with it.”
Here’s the hit that sidelined Garrison:
The Bolts weren’t happy with the play, with starting netminder Ben Bishop calling Abdelkader’s actions “pretty dirty.” The Detroit forward received a two-minute boarding minor on the play, and wasn’t suspended.
So, where does this leave Tampa Bay?
The Bolts take on the Habs in Montreal tonight with what amounts to a patchwork defense. Victor Hedman will play with Luke Witkowski, Anton Stralman will skate with Nikita Nesterov and Matt Carle is paired with Mark Barberio.
With just six games left in their regular season schedule, the Tampa Bay Lightning need reinforcements. They’ve called up forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski in response to injuries sustained by Cedric Paquette and Jason Garrison.
Marchessault, 24, went undrafted, but he’s established himself as a top forward at the AHL level. He recorded at least 56 points in each of his previous three campaigns going into 2014-15. This season he has 21 goals and 57 points in 60 contests, which puts him in a tie for fifth place in the AHL’s scoring race. While he’s had plenty of success in the minors, thus far he’s only played in three NHL games.
Witkowski, 24, was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He finished the 2013-14 campaign with 204 penalty minutes in 76 AHL contests, which put him in 10th place in the league. He has eight points and 91 penalty minutes in 47 contests with the Syracuse Crunch in 2014-15. He’s also played in 10 contests with Tampa Bay this season and has logged an average of 14:44 minutes per game.
Paquette hurt his left leg when he crashed into the goal post during Saturday’s game while trying to prevent an empty net goal. He’s regarded as day-to-day, per the Tampa Bay Times.
Garrison has an upper-body injury after being smashed into the boards by Justin Abdelkader on Saturday. He was evaluated on Sunday and the Lightning are expected to learn more about his condition today.
Tampa Bay isn’t likely to finish worse than second in the Atlantic Division, but it would need to close a three-point gap to catch up to the Montreal Canadiens.