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Lightning Round: A chance to see what the next wave of prospects can do in the NHL

The Lightning can use the taxi squad to help plan for their future.

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NHL: SEP 17 Preseason - Hurricanes at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning roster shuffle was made official as the team announced that Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton were recalled to the taxi squad. While they still aren’t officially on the NHL roster just yet it seems like it’s only a matter of time until they see some action:

The taxi squad was brought into existence this season in order to help teams deal with the possibility of having to replace multiple players rapidly due to possible COVID exposure or to fill in for injured players without needing to wait for the replacements to have to quarantine. It’s been a successful addition to the rosters as several teams, including the Lightning, have had to dip into the taxi squad to field full rosters on game day.

Teams can also use this squad to get an idea of how their prospects may fare in the NHL on a limited basis. No one wants to have a young player sit on the taxi squad all season long, especially now that the AHL is up and running. Still, if they can shuffle them back-and-forth on a limited basis it will give them a chance to practice with the NHL coaching staff and appear in a game or two at the highest level.

While the ultimate goal of the Lightning is to defend their Stanley Cup, they also have to start making some decisions on the next wave of prospects in the system. Mitchell Stephens, prior to his injury, had earned a spot on the roster while Alex Volkov is making a push right now.

They also have to find out if other prospects like Barre-Boulet, Colton, Boris Katchouk, and Taylor Raddysh are also ready to make the jump. They could have huge roles on the team next season if they have to unload some of their veterans for cap reasons. So why not get a look, even if it’s just a quick one, at some of them this season?

Colton projects into a bottom-six center role while Barre-Boulet is better suited for a more offensively-oriented spot on the roster. Getting Colton into a game shouldn’t be too difficult as it wouldn’t be an issue subbing him in for Gemel Smith or Alex Volkov sometime in the next couple of weeks. Barre-Boulet would probably also find a game on the fourth line, but that might not be the best judge of his abilities, although it would give him a chance to how the coaching staff that he is willing to play a responsible defensive game.

Both players will most likely be back in Syracuse in the next couple of weeks (Anthony Cirelli should hopefully be back within that time frame), but hopefully not before they play in a game or two with the Lightning. Cycling them in occasionally during their stint on the taxi squad will be an excellent chance for the Lightning to see what they have in these two players.

Lightning Links

Tracey provided an update on the Orlando Solar Bears. It started off slowly but things definitely improved as the week went on.

Dave Mishkin is the familiar voice of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In between calling Bolts games he’s found time to lend his voice to some other hockey action. In the last couple of weeks he’s provided play-by-play for USPHL and a Lightning Cup game. He details the process of how he prepares for games where the information isn’t quite as readily available.

The folks who can actually watch Tampa Bay Lightning games locally are, in fact, tuning in in record numbers. Imagine what the numbers would look like if the entire region had access to Sinclair/Ballys/Fox Sports.

Hockey News:

The league released a massive schedule update on Tuesday as they try to get everything back in order after the mass postponements over the last few weeks. The Lightning are not affected directly by any of the 29 rescheduled games, as they are all taking place in other divisions. There are still a couple of Nashville/Dallas that need to be updated, but as of right now the Lightning are good to go.

Thing are apparently going less than well in Arizona these days. Katie Strang from The Athletic released an in-depth look at how things are going in the desert under the leadership of new owner Alex Meruelo who, “envisioned himself as an owner in the mold of the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik but also bristled when compared to him.” So that’s something.

So the Coyotes response was reasonable and didn’t mention the possibility of a lawsuit, right? Well... Seems like maybe they should have responded to some of the questions Strang sent them for the article. Maybe that would have helped refute the allegations from the alleged “disgruntled ex-employees” and vendors who just want to get paid what they’re owed.

Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts is always a fun read even when the Lightning aren’t featured (which is the norm). In this week’s post he points out that goaltenders are struggling a bit this season with an average save percentage of just .906. Kind of makes Andrei Vasilevskiy’s .933 look even better. Could it just be a down year for goalies or is the familiarity from back-to-back games against the same opponent an advantage for the shooters?

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association announced that they will be adding a pair of weekend games in Chicago on March 6th-7th to the Dream Gap Tour. They had previously announced that they will play in Madison Square Garden on February 28th. Some members of the PWHPA are in Tampa right now taking on teams from the USPHL.