Lightning recall defenseman Nikita Nesterov

The defenseman appears to be set to make his NHL debut tonight with Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas banged up and out of the lineup.

The Lightning have recalled defenseman Nikita Nesterov from the Syracuse Crunch, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Nesterov will meet the Lightning in Buffalo, N.Y. The recall happened right before the Crunch were set to play a game with a 3:00 P.M. start time in Rochester, N.Y.

Nesterov's recall happened because Lightning blueliner Radko Gudas is banged up and will not play tonight:

Nesterov has played in 32 games with the Crunch this season, recording three goals and 14 points with at plus-4 rating and 26 penalty minutes. He currently leads all Syracuse blue-liners for goals and points while ranking tied for second for plus/minus.

Nesterov was the quarterback on the Crunch's top power play unit, and has a cannon of a shot when he can get it off. Nesterov's improvement over the season so far has clearly nudged him up the depth chart, and apparently he's even surpassed fellow Crunch blueliner Luke Witkowski. Many had felt that Witkowski was almost a replacement Gudas in Syracuse, as last season their playing styles practically mirrored each other. However, Witkowski has shown a decline in his play this season, and was a healthy scratch for the first time in his AHL career in November.

This move leaves the Syracuse Crunch with 6 healthy defenseman, as Jake Dotchin is still injured. To make room for Nesterov, D Jason Garrison has been placed in IR retroactive to December 20th: