With the news that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat will be out of the lineup for 3 to 5 weeks with a lower body injury, it was almost a guarantee that someone currently with the Syracuse Crunch would be seeing an NHL call up. Most were anticipating that the lucky player would be Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault currently leads Syracuse in scoring, and has found a lot of success recently after being reunited with two line mates he shared time with last season, forwards Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard.
However, the Lightning has instead gone in a different direction, apparently going for a combination of NHL experience, locker room leadership, and a big body with the recall of Mike Blunden:
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forward Mike Blunden from the Syracuse Crunch, Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Blunden, 28, has skated in 10 games with the Crunch this season, posting three goals and five points to go along with eight penalty minutes. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound forward ranks tied for second on Syracuse for goals and is tied for fifth for points. He has played in 420 career AHL games over his 11-year professional career, recording 99 goals and 214 points.
The Toronto, Ontario native has appeared in 104 career NHL games, including two with the Lightning last season. Blunden registered two penalty minutes and seven hits in a pair of Lightning games in 2014-15. He set career-highs for games played (40), goals (two), assists (two) and points (four) during the 2009-10 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Blunden was originally signed as a free agent by the Lightning on July 1, 2014. He was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, 43rd overall, at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Blunden has been an alternate captain for Syracuse this season. Given the Lightning's current troubles, it could be that they felt Blunden would be more adaptable to different game situations. It could also be that they're counting on his NHL experience and leadership to make an impression. Blunden's size will also bring some punch to the roster, much like recent send-down Tye McGinn.