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Tampa Bay Lightning recall Matthew Peca from Syracuse Crunch

After losing three centers to injury on Thursday night, the Lightning add a center.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled center Matthew Peca from the Syracuse Crunch. The Lightning lost three centers, Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Cedric Paquette, to lower body injuries during Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. All three are listed as day-to-day, but not expected to play tonight against the Florida Panthers.

The Lightning had forwards J.T. Brown and Greg McKegg as healthy scratches that will now draw back into the line up. That still only leaves the Lightning with 10 healthy forwards on the roster, though Luke Witkowski has been playing forward for the past few games. The team has already used their four post-trade deadline recalls, so making an emergency recall was the only way the team could bring a player up from the minors. With the 10 healthy forwards, the Lightning could have called up two players under emergency recall conditions.

An emergency recall means that as soon as two forwards become healthy, Peca will have to immediately be sent back to the Crunch. The Crunch are already suffering at center, and this loss of three Lightning centers puts them in a “crunch” of their own. The Crunch are in the middle of a playoff push of their own and Steve Yzerman went all-in on supporting them by acquiring Byron Friese in the Brian Boyle trade. Expect that as soon as any of the injured forwards come back into the line up, which could include Steven Stamkos, Peca will be sent back.

A playmaker more than a goalscorer, Peca is a reliable two-way forward. He projects as being a middle six center, but more likely will settle in as a third-liner. He can provide points from the third line while keeping his play responsible. He could also be an asset on the power play, using his vision and passing to distribute the puck to his teammates.

This is Peca’s second call up of the season. He spent two and a half weeks with the team at the end of December into January. He played fairly well in a third line role through nine games with a goal and an assist. Peca was originally a 7th round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He attended college as Quinnipiac University for four years before turning pro for the 2015-16 season. Peca had 43 points in 65 seasons last season for the Crunch and this season has put up 30 points in 53 games.