The pipeline from Syracuse to Tampa continues to churn out prospects, with C Tyler Johnson the latest to get the call to the big club.
With lower body injuries to Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier (injured reserve) and Tom Pyatt thinning the ranks, Johnson was recalled from Syracuse and will make his NHL debut against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Johnson, 22, signed nearly two years ago as a free agent out of Spokane in the Western Hockey League. Last season, his first as a pro, his 68 points were second among rookies in the American Hockey League, behind teammate Cory Conacher. After scoring 31 goals last season, Johnson leads the AHL this season with 32 and is second in scoring with 58 points.
“He does it all (in the AHL), so it’s a question now can he do it at this level,’’ Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “He dominates down there.’’
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound center was among the forwards at Tampa Bay’s abbreviated training camp, where he made an impression.
“We know he has a lot of skill, a lot of speed and he’s a smart player,’’ Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. “He’s one of those guys that isn’t big in stature but plays a bigger game. He’s not afraid to go into those areas, so size doesn’t become an issue when you are willing to go into those areas, use your speed and skill. So, we are excited for him to get a chance.’’
D Radko Gudas, who will make his home debut Thursday after appearing in his first NHL game on Tuesday in Florida, arrived at the rink Thursday sporting a bit less of his legendary beard. Instead of the two months-plus growth Gudas had been sporting, his facial hair was more cleaned up.
“I thought it looks more professional, and not a lot of guys here have beards, so I thought I would go with the team look,’’ said Gudas, who played just more than 15 minutes in his debut.
Gudas’ parents, who missed Tuesday’s game, will be in attendance Thursday after arriving from Prague, Czech Republic.
With the injuries to Lecavalier and Pyatt, LW Adam Hall will be back in the lineup at center after being a healthy scratch for the previous three games. His success in the faceoff circle, where he has won 56 percent in his draws, will be a key in Lecavalier’s absence.
“You want to play well, you want to be solid but you just have to focus on our game plan and executing,’’ Hall said of trying to stay in the lineup. “If you do that, if our team plays the way we can then everything else takes care of itself.’’
The NHL formally announced realignment starting next season that will see Tampa Bay in a division with Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Boston and Florida. The new divisions will be renamed at a later date.
Under the format, Tampa Bay will play each team in the Western conference in a home-and-home series and each team in the other Eastern conference division three times. Within the division, the Lightning will face two teams five times and the remaining five teams in the division four times.
G Anders Lindback will start for Tampa Bay. …Boucher did not announce who was scratched, but D Brian Lee, D Marc-Andre Bergeron and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie are expected to sit.