TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning pipeline continues to supply promising prospects to the parent club.
The next to get a taste at the NHL level is 2011 first-round draft pick C Vladislav Namestnikov, who made his NHL debut on Saturday against Detroit. He is the 11th different Lightning player to make his NHL debut since the start of last season.
Namestnikov, 21, was called up from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Friday when C Valtteri Filppula was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture in his right ankle. Namestnikov joined the team on the ice for the morning skate and played between RW Nikita Kucherov and LW J.T. Brown, which formed the top line in Syracuse at the start of the season.
“We have chemistry, so that will help a lot,’’ Namestnikov said. “I’m familiar with them, so I’m comfortable. We use our speed, we pass a lot, so that helps a lot.’’
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said Namestnikov was called up because the Lightning are in a need of a skilled center with Filppula and Steven Stamkos on injured reserve, and putting trio back together made the most sense.
“They had a lot of chemistry down there so hopefully that translates,’’ Cooper said. “He’s coming in here to do what he does, he’s earned his spot.’’
In his second pro year, Namestnikov has 13 goals and 30 points in 31 games for Syracuse this season after missing six weeks with a broken hand. Last year he had seven goals and 21 points in 44 games, while missing time with a broken collar bone. In 18 playoff games with Syracuse last year Namestnikov scored two goals and seven points helping the Crunch to the Calder Cup Finals.
On Saturday, he made his debut against the Red Wings, a team he followed closely growing up outside Detroit and spent plenty of time around while his uncle, Slava Kozlov, played for the Wings.
“It’s extra special, growing up in Detroit, having them as my favorite team, it’s special,’’ Namestnikov said.
Mixing it up: For the first time since Dec. 14 the Lightning dressed a lineup with six defensemen and 12 forwards, which is the normal compliment of four lines and three defensive pairings. Tampa Bay had dressed a seventh defenseman for 25 consecutive games before shuffling the lineup against Detroit.
Heading into the game, the Lightning had a record of 13-10 when dressing 12 forwards and 19-10-5 when dressing seven defensemen.
Goaltending mystery: With uncertainty regarding the status of G Ben Bishop, who left Thursday’s game against Toronto with an upper body injury, forced Tampa Bay to call up G Kristers Gudlevskis from Syracuse on Friday.
Bishop took part in Saturday’s optional morning skate, spending time taking in-close shots from RW Marty St. Louis and then point shots from D Keith Aulie. After holding conversations along the bench with both the team trainers and Cooper, Bishop left the ice after about 20 minutes and was classified as a game-time decision by Cooper, who indicated that all three goaltenders — including Cedrick Desjardins — might take warmups.
But when warmups began, Bishop led the team on to the ice while Gudlevskis was the second goaltender. Desjardins did not take the ice and was scratched when Bishop was able to start.
Gudlevskis, who will be the starting goaltender for Latvia at the Winter Olympics, dressed for his first NHL game.
Heading to Russia: Several members of both the Lightning and Red Wings will be departing for Sochi, Russia, on Sunday to participate in the Olympics.
Players and staff of both teams will depart from Tampa on Sunday morning and travel to Atlanta, where they will board a charter plane set up by the NHL and NHL Players Association later in the evening for a 12-hour flight to Sochi. The charter flight is one of four provided for the players and staff, with the other three scheduled to depart from the New York area.
All of the Lightning’s Olympic participants were honored on the scoreboard during the first period.
Nuts and Bolts: D J-P Cote cleared waivers on Saturday and was reassigned to Syracuse. ... D Keith Aulie was scratched. ... Detroit played the 6,000th game in franchise history. ... Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk collected his 800th career point. ... Tampa Bay ended an 0-for-17 stretch on the power play in the second-period with a goal by Ondrej Palat. ... C Tom Pyatt scored his first goal since April 4, 2013. ... RW Marty St. Louis finished with points in 14 of 16 games leading into the Olympic break.