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Tampa Bay Lightning activate Peter Budaj from Injured Reserve, reassign Louis Domingue

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After serving a conditioning stint, Budaj is ready to return to action and Louis Domingue has been returned to the Syracuse Crunch.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Today the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that goaltender Louis Domingue has been reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. In addition, that means that Peter Budaj has been activated from injured reserve for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

Since being recalled to the Lightning after Budaj’s injury, Domingue has had an up and down performance for the Lightning in a back-up role. With the Arizona Coyotes to start the season, Domingue posted an .856 SV% while going 0-6-0 in seven games played. He’s played eight games for the Lightning going 5-2-0 with one relief appearance with a .907 SV%.

Domingue’s numbers haven’t been stellar in this back-up role, but they have been solid enough to give the Lightning a chance more often than not when he’s been in the net. He also had a lot of challenges starting in the second game of back-to-backs and mostly on the road. Last Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens was the first appearance he has made at home for the Lightning.

Peter Budaj just finished up a conditioning stint with the Syracuse Crunch posting an .887 SV% in two games as he attempted to regain his form. Budaj will serve as the back-up to starter Andrei Vasilevskiy in tonight’s game.

Analysis

I believe that the Lightning still see a future with Domingue backing up Vasilevskiy. His play this season has been better than the play of Budaj. He’s also younger and has less wear and tear on his body compared to Budaj.

The Lightning have also put themselves in a little bit of an awkward situation after trading Nicola Riopel for Eddie Pasquale. Pasquale stabilized the Syracuse goaltending situation while Budaj was injured and Domingue was in Tampa. He’s had a .926 SV% in 10 games for the Crunch. Meanwhile, Connor Ingram has a .907 SV% in 29 games.

With the swap of Riopel, who was on a AHL contract, for Pasquale, on an NHL contract, the Lightning have five goaltenders on NHL contracts. The organization also added a sixth with the signing of NCAA free agent Olivier Mantha to an AHL contract and assigning him to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Connor Ingram is the only other goaltender eligible for the ECHL as he is on an entry level contract.

Any way you slice it, one of the three teams is going to end up with three goaltenders. The Thunder also have Drew Fielding on an ECHL contract.

There’s a couple options that the Lightning have for what they can do though to help alleviate any issues.

Option 1 - Louis Domingue stays with the Crunch and the team has to juggle three goaltenders with Connor Ingram likely getting the short end of the deal. This isn’t ideal, but Ingram would resume his role next season after Pasquale potentially departs as an unrestricted free agent.

Option 1-B - The same as above, but Ingram gets assigned to the ECHL, either with the Adirondack Thunder or with another ECHL team. The benefit to this is that he can play a starters workload in the ECHL and continue to develop. Travel in the ECHL sucks though and it will be rough on him physically. If he goes to the Thunder, they would need to work out what to do with their third goalie. But with many games being 3-in-3, I suppose they could rotate through all three goalies each night.

Option 2 - Domingue is just down for a week and returns to the Lightning as the third of four of their regular recalls allowed following the trade deadline. This means the Lightning have to juggle the workload of backing up for Domingue and Budaj. However, if the Lightning clinch the 1st overall seed in the Eastern Conference sooner rather than later, having both goalies available gives Vasilevskiy a needed break where he won’t need to back-up when he’s not starting. I’m not sure that’s what Vasilevskiy would want for a break, but it’s not the worst idea in the world.

The magic number for securing the 1st overall seed in the conference right now is 25 points over the Boston Bruins, 14 over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 12 over the Washington Capitals, 9 over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6 over the Philadelphia Flyers, and three to five points over the major Wild Card contenders (Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and New Jersey Devils). As a refresher of how the Magic Numbers work, the number of points ticks down by number of points the Lightning gain in games and number of points the team in question misses in a game. With the Bruins and Lightning playing games tonight, if the Lightning win and the Bruins lost in regular, the magic number would go down to 21. If the Lightning win and the Bruins win, the magic number goes down to 23.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see how this next stretch goes in net. If Domingue ends up back up with the Lightning, the last starts that he and Budaj get very well could be auditions for who ends up backing the team up in the playoffs. My personal belief is that Domingue will be back with the team and is the presumptive back-up going into the playoffs.