10:23 AM update:
Okay. Let's get the heavy Steven Stamkos speculation out of the way. This is NOT an April Fools joke (I mean it could be, but I'm fairly certain Steve Yzerman doesn't care for elaborate pranks that involve reassigning players.) Let's follow the breadcrumbs. First, the Syracuse Crunch reassigned Stefan Fournier to the Kalamazoo Wings ( Tampa Bay Lightning’s ECHL affiliate ). This freed up a spot for a forward in Syracuse. Then came the big move - the one that really suggests that someone is ready to return to the lineup. Joel Vermin got reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch and Assistant GM Julien BriseBois confirmed that he would be in Syracuse today.
BriseBois, who is in town, confirms that Vermin has been assigned and well be here tomorrow— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) March 31, 2017
Somebody is coming back today. There is no official word on who that will be, but someone is definitely returning to the lineup tonight.
Asked BriseBois who is replacing Vermin in Tampa. He said we'll find out tomorrow.— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) March 31, 2017
Here's the Lightning's injured reserve list, along with my personal speculation about who is returning based on activity in recent practices.
Ryan Callahan - Unlikely (has not practiced with the team in months)
Jason Garrison - Doubtful (has not practiced with the team since injury)
Cedric Paquette - Doubtful (practiced with the team briefly after injury, but suffered a setback and has not practiced recently)
Tyler Johnson - Questionable (participated in his first team practice earlier this week, but it was optional practice with no contact drills)
Steven Stamkos - Probable (has been practicing with increasing intensity for a few weeks, including battle drills and a full practice with line rushes) That’s just my speculation. I really hope I’m right because I have missed watching the magic of Stamkov (Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov ).
Speaking of Stamkos, we all know he’s really good at hockey. Have you ever wondered just how good he is? Our resident numbers guy shows us the data on one of the best pure goal-scorers in the league. [Raw Charge]
“The Lightning enters what might be the most important 24 hour stretch of its season tonight. Trailing Boston by three points for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, it has back-to-back home games Saturday against Montreal and Sunday versus Dallas.” [Tampa Bay Times]
The Syracuse Crunch pick up a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Marlies. The Crunch wore (fictional hockey team) Charlestown Chiefs jerseys as an homage to Slap Shot, the cult classic film about hockey.
The Kalamazoo Wings are the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate. Currently two Lightning prospects play for the K-Wings. Forward Cam Darcy (#13 in white) contributed 3 assists and goalie Nick Riopel (#29) stopped 30 of 35 shots to help the K-Wings defeat the Florida Everblades 7-5.
The Canadian Hockey League (junior hockey) highlights will focus on players who contributed goals or assists last night as well as goalie prospect Connor Ingram. Dennis Yan (Shawinigan Cataractes) was held off the score sheet.
Boris Katchouk (#12 in red) had a two-point night (1G, 1A) in Sault St. Marie’s 6-1 victory over the Flint Firebirds. Katchouk and the Greyhounds won the series 4-1 to advance to the second round of the OHL playoffs.
Mitchell Stephens (#67 in green) scored the game-winning goal to help the London Knights defeat the Windsor Spitfires 2-1. Stephens was named the third star of the game. Windsor leads the series 3-2.
Otto Somppi (#89 in red) picked up an assist as his Halifax Mooseheads fell 6-5 in triple overtime to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Rouyn-Noranda leads the series 3-2.
Brett Howden (#21 in white) scored a goal as his Moose Jaw Warriors fell 2-1 to the Swift Current Broncos. Howden was named second star of the game. Swift Current leads the series 3-2.
Connor Ingram (#39 in blue) made 32 saves on 33 shots to help the Kaloomps Blazers defeat the Kelowna Rockets 4-1. Ingram received first star honors for his effort. Kelowna leads the series 3-2.
Detroit Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard wants to know what Lightning super fan Terry Toizan says during games. "There's a guy in Tampa that is always yelling something, but you can never hear him. He yells from the Zamboni door but you can never hear him because the music is so damn loud. He always has his face painted up. You ever see the commercial where they're thanking the fans? They show him. He's over the railing. Screaming. No clue what he's saying, but I've always wondered what's coming out of his mouth. I usually just laugh." [ESPN]
The USA Hockey women’s team shutout rival Team Canada 2-0 in the first game of the World Championships. “The U.S. women’s hockey team, fueled and fired up by an opportunity to play in a tournament it was willing to sit out, started fast and strong against its rival in a highly charged and physical game.” [Detroit Free Press]
It's time for the men of USA Hockey to take the World Championships seriously. "They’re coming off an embarrassment in the World Cup. They’re coming off a disappointing Olympic performance in Sochi. We’re now relying on teenagers to represent our country with pride in the World Juniors, while the best players in the world ignore invites for play at the highest level." [ESPN]
And your heart-warming moment of the day.