Tampa Bay Lightning recall Slater Koekkoek

The Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled defenseman Slater Koekkoek and re-assigned Matt Taormina.

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced that the team has recalled defenseman Slater Koekkoek from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. In a corresponding move, veteran Matt Taormina was re-assigned to the Crunch.

Slater Koekkoek was on the opening night roster. However, he was re-assigned to Syracuse after three games as Nikita Nesterov won the sixth defenseman spot on the roster. Koekkoek was a healthy scratch in each of the three games. Since returning to Syracuse, Koekkoek has played in five games recording two assists for the Crunch.

Taormina was a healthy scratch during his six game stint with Tampa Bay.

With the Lightning’s offense struggling the past three games, a shake up was needed. The Lightning had one such shake up already with the return of Ryan Callahan making his season debut Sunday night against the New York Rangers. Over the past three games though, the Lightning have only scored three goals while allowing 12 goals against.

Nesterov had started the season out strong with positive possession numbers despite some costly turnovers that directly led to goals. He has not recorded a point and has managed 16 shots on goals over nine games while being called for five minor penalties.  He is averaging 17:09 time on ice for the season.

Koekkoek is a strong skater with good offensive instincts. His game is similar to Victor Hedman’s in that he has the skating to be aggressive and rush up the ice with the puck. His strong skating also allows him to recover defensively. He isn’t as skilled as Hedman, but the ingredients are there for him to provide a boost to the Lightning on the blue line. In the first week of the season, it seemed that Koekkoek would be battling Nesterov for the sixth defense spot. Head coach Jon Cooper ultimately decided on Nesterov leading to Koekkoek’s demotion to the AHL.

Now, it seems that Cooper has decided to take another approach after having coach Rick Bowness shuffle the defensive pairings all night looking for any spark in the past two games. While plus-minus isn’t the best measure of a player’s performance, only Hedman lacks a negative plus-minus rating over the past three games.