ARLINGTON, Va. — Today, Jonathan Marchessault is an established member in the Lightning lineup.
Tomorrow ... well, he’s trying not to worry too much about what that might bring because he understands nothing is promised.
“I don’t think about that right now. I just need to concentrate on my game,’’ Marchessault said.
Injuries have knocked up to six forwards out of the lineup in the past month, allowing the 24-year-old to start to make his mark as an NHL player. Now in his fifth year as a pro, he finally might have put his stamp on a spot in the lineup, something he might hold even after Tampa Bay starts to get healthy.
That would then offer the opportunity for Marchessault and his family to move out of a hotel in downtown Tampa and into an apartment or condo. His wife, Alexandra — the couple have been married for two years and together for four — and their two children, James (20 months) and Victoria (2 months), currently live out of a two-room hotel suite.
“It’s not the best situation, so it’s given me extra motivation to try to give them a better life,’’ Marchessault said. “My wife has followed me my whole pro career. They have been really good and really supportive, so I can’t be more thankful.
“So I want them to have a good life and a good home. They have earned it.’’
Marchessault also has earned his opportunity.
Undrafted out of junior after a four-year stint with Quebec, Marchessault signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers and spent his first year with Hartford in the American Hockey League. There, he scored four goals in four playoff games in 2011 against Norfolk, coached by Jon Cooper at the time.
Marchessault left the Rangers after that season and latched on with Columbus, where he received two games of NHL action, but things were not working out.
Then, in an under-the-radar trade in 2013, Tampa Bay acquired Marchessault from the Blue Jackets.
Now in his second full season with the Lightning, he’s getting his opportunity.
“When I came here I felt the opportunity could show up if I kept working ... because they kind of mold their players in the AHL and bring them up to the NHL and give them the chance,’’ Marchessault said.
He got that first chance last year with an early-season call-up, then scored his first career goal in a victory against Boston in the final game of the regular season. That led to two postseason appearances, including Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
While he didn’t make the lineup out of training camp this season, he’s seized the opportunity since being called up Nov. 16, his second promotion of the season. He has four goals in 15 games and is coming off a career-high 17 minutes Tuesday in Toronto.
And now that he would have to clear through waivers to be sent back down to the AHL — it’s hard to imagine he would go unclaimed — he figures to be with the Lightning for the remainder of the season as he’s started to play a more complete game.
“He’s got one heck of a shot and a release, and he’s always been able to put the puck in the net. It comes natural to him,’’ Cooper said. “It was always if he was going to compete and play a 200-foot game, and that grew quickly. Now he’s getting his chance up here and he’s making the best of it. And it’s been rewarding to watch this kid progress and how it’s paid off for him.
“It’s not always the size of the player, it’s the size of the heart, and he has it and that’s why he’s here.’’
Marchessault hopes it’s on a more permanent basis.
Nuts and Bolts
Tampa Bay sent goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to Syracuse and recalled goalie Kristers Gudlevskis and center Mike Angelidis. Vasilevskiy is expected to appear in two games with the Crunch this weekend. ... Left wing Joel Vermin underwent hand surgery and will miss 6-8 weeks. Vermin was injured on his opening shift Monday in Columbus when he blocked a shot.