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Lightning send Connolly, Panik, and Ashton back to juniors

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If there's any surprise in the news forwards Brett Connolly, Carter Ashton, and Richard Panik were sent back to juniors, the surprise lies in when they were sent back.  Not if they would be sent back at all.  I figured the demotions would happen after the team played on Saturday in Calgary.

Despite fans being excited about the Lightning's 2010 1st round pick (Connolly), the fact he had only played 16 games in juniors last season dictated where he was going to play this year.  His development depends on him getting consistent ice time and minutes... That wouldn't have happened in Tampa Bay.  

The same goes for Ashton and Panik -- playing time and developing take precedence over chipping in  on the big club.  I don't think fans want to see either of these guys (nor Connolly for that matter) penciled in for checking-line play.

Connolly will be returned to the Prince George Cougars of the WHL, while Ashton will return to the Regina Pats (also of the WHL) and Panik to the Bellevile Bulls of the OHL.

The team roster is now down to 49 players, with more cuts likely coming after Saturday night's game against the Calgary Flames.