Namestnikov feels 'lucky' injury wasn't serious
Four days ago, Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov had to be helped off the Amalie Arena with what appeared to be a serious leg injury.
But here was Namestnikov Monday, participating in the morning skate at Madison Square Garden, and a possibility to play tonight against the Rangers, per coach Jon Cooper. Namestnikov said he feels better, that he just got tangled up with Wild's Zach Parise near the boards Thursday.
"I got lucky," Namestnikov said. "It could have been worse."
While Namestnikov could return, neither Tyler Johnson nor Cedric Paquette will play tonight, Cooper said. Both also suffered lower body injuries Thursday. Cooper said Johnson is on the trip, which ends Tuesday in Ottawa, but Paquette is not.
NEW GUY: It's been a whirlwind few weeks for center Byron Froese, who was acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade Feb. 29. Froese was recalled today, joining the Lightning skate and there's a "good chance" he'll make his Tampa Bay debut tonight, Cooper said.
Froese, a 6-foot right-shot center, was sidelined with an oblique the past few weeks before finally playing a couple games with the Crunch. "I'm excited to get out there and play," he said. "It's been a long three weeks."
Froese was the AHL Toronto Marlies leading scorer (24 goals, 15 assists) when he got traded.
"I was shocked," Froese said. "Definitely excited for a fresh opportunity."
Froese centered the third line in the skate, along with Namestnikov and Adam Erne; he was also on the second power play unit. Coach Jon Cooper said he's liked Froese since watching him with the Leafs in 2015-16, when he played 56 games.
"He's got a lot of NHL attributes, especially his shot," Cooper said. "Watching him shoot the puck, that was really encouraging. He's definitely somebody that now we really need."
BUDAJ TIME: Veteran backup Peter Budaj will make his second Lightning start tonight.
While starter Andrei Vasilevskiy is on a roll, going 5-0-1 in six starts since taking over for Bishop, Cooper said he wants to keep him in that groove. And with four games in six nights, the Lightning doesn't want to overwork him, like it might have during his nine-start stretch when Bishop got hurt in December.
"We've had a lot of success with Vasy," Cooper said. "And playing him every third day, he's played really well. When he went through this stretch of playing back-to-backs in December, I just don't know if it was too much, too soon either we weren't good in front of him or he wasn't at the top of his game.
"Our No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs, but still our goaltender is young and developing. We've got him in a really good grove here, there's no sense in breaking that groove. There's a lot of games he still has to play."
Budaj played well in his first start with Tampa Bay, stopping 30 of 34 shots against Pittsburgh Mar. 3. He is 4-1-0 in five career starts against the Rangers with a 2.58 goals against average.
MORE NOTES: C Steven Stamkos (knee surgery) once again skated before the team's skate and was a limited participant in the team workout... RW Ryan Callahan (hip) is on the trip, but not participating.. Lines were Palat-Point-Kucherov/Killorn-Drouin-Gourde/Erne-Froese-Namestnikov/Brown-Dumont-Witkowski. Cooper said RW Nikita Kucherov would definitely be the Lightning's "Hart Trophy candidate" for MVP. "We've jumped on his back."