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Lightning reduce roster by four in preparation for season opener

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Angelidis, Gudlevskis, Marchessault, Witkowski are Syracuse Crunch bound, and it appears Slater Koekkoek has made the club out of camp.

D Luke Witkowski was among four sent to AHL Syracuse.
D Luke Witkowski was among four sent to AHL Syracuse.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning started the process of final roster cuts for the 2015-16 NHL season by placing Michael Angelidis and Jonathan Marchessault on waivers - a necessary function for either player to be re-assigned to the Syracuse Crunch (who had started their own process of journeying back to the United States from Lyon, France yesterday as well). Both Angelidis and Marchessault cleared, and along with defenseman Luke Witkowski and goalie Kristers Gudlevskis, were sent to the Crunch.

The four-player demotion sets the Lightning roster at 24 players, one more move - placing Andrei Vasilevskiy on IR perhaps - is in store before the roster will be set for Thursday night ‘s season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.

It's not a surprise for Angelidis to be sent down; the veteran center will likely once again captain the Crunch. Marchessault, on the other hand, was a bubble player with a true chance to make the Lightning. The fact the 24 year-old Left Wing wasn't claimed on waivers is a little head scratching; he has talent, putting up 24 goals and 43 assists with the Crunch last season and a goal and an assist in 2 regular-season games with the Lightning.

Gudlevskis demotion clarifies the Lightning goalie situation for the moment. Gudlevskis did not necessitate waivers while recent goalie pickup Kevin Poulin did, and there was no guarantee Poulin would clear. Gudlevskis had been vying for the backup role in Tampa Bay since Vasilevskiy went down with his blood clot surgery in early September. The situation in Tampa will likely see Ben Bishop getting the majority of starts, and the club would rather see its developing goalies get playing time... It's another reason the demotion of Gudlevskis was more likely to happen than not.

As for Luke Witkowski on defense, he loses out on a roster spot to 2012 #10 draft pick Slater Koekkoek. How much Koekkoek gets into the lineup (competing with Nikita Nesterov for 7th D-man responsibilities) isn't clear right now... Perhaps Andrej Sustr will see less time as a starting defenseman? Carrying 8 defensemen is an insurance policy with injuries a threat to the Bolts defense, but it's still a cluttered field that may be changed via transaction as the season progresses.  Witkowski had played 16 games with the Lightning in 2014-15 with no points to his credit. Likewise, Koekkoek played in 3 contests for Tampa Bay last season (his true NHL debut) and was scoreless as well.