The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled forward Mathieu Joseph from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL ahead of tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Joseph posted 13 goals and 26 points over 70 NHL games last year as a rookie. After making the team last year and putting up a good, third line campaign, Joseph was expected to take some steps forward as a sophomore. Instead, he struggled to start the season only putting up four goals and seven points in 34 games.
His struggles led to his demotion to the AHL on December 19th. He was brought up a couple of times over the ensuing two weeks to play three games as an injury fill in, but didn’t find the scoresheet and was sent back to Syracuse. With the Crunch, Joseph has recorded five goals and 14 points over 20 games. He started off slow with the Crunch, but started to find some real chemistry recently playing on a line with Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Boulet. It seems he has re-found some of his confidence.
It’s possible that Joseph was brought up to fill in for an injured forward, but we haven’t seen any definite signs of that yet. Morning skate will give us a little bit more of a glimpse of what he’s up for.
If there is no injury, the most obvious player for him to replace in the line up is Carter Verhaeghe. Verhaeghe scored on Saturday night, breaking a six game goal-less and pointless streak. Verhaeghe recorded a hat trick back on January 7th, but he’s been invisible at times since then and has not been shooting the puck very much. Saturday’s game was the first game he’s gotten more than one shot on goal since his hat trick. He has also had six games out of 13 where he has played less than nine minutes and as low as 5:56.
Joseph can slide easily into that line with Mitchell Stephens and Yanni Gourde and add even more speed and tenacity to the line. That tenacity was somewhat lacking for Joseph earlier in the year, but hopefully he has taken the demotion to heart and re-found some of that energy that made him an effective third liner last year.
The Lightning are in need of more depth scoring. The possibility of adding a top nine forward to the roster via trade has been out there. But the team has also owed it to themselves to see if they can get Joseph back on track. If he can get back to playing the way he did as a rookie, then the Lightning will have acquired a capable third line winger for the low, low cost of a roster spot and sitting Carter Verhaeghe in the press box.
Later in the morning, the team announced that Steven Stamkos has a minor injury and will miss tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That development is likely the reason for Joseph’s recall. Still, tonight is an opportunity for the young winger to make his case for getting back to the NHL.
The team has officially listed Stamkos as day to day with a lower body injury. With the team playing again tomorrow night in Pittsburgh, it seems probable that he’ll miss at least that game before potentially returning either Thursday against Edmonton or Friday against Philadelphia.