TAMPA — A glance around the Lightning dressing room after Monday’s practice showed five players who opened the season at AHL Syracuse, a backup goalie who won 27 games this season with the Kings and a fourth-line center who began the year with high expectations for the Panthers.
Yep. Just how they drew it up when the Lightning opened the season Oct. 13 against Detroit with its sights set on hoisting the Stanley Cup.
“It’s a weird year,” center Greg McKegg said.
McKegg, who started the season with the Panthers, was claimed off waivers Feb. 27. He left one team scrambling for its playoff life for another. Nothing has really changed, he said, “just the uniform.”
Backup goalie Peter Budaj came from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade. He split his first two starts for the Lightning, earning two big points for his team with a victory against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Meanwhile, the Syracuse Shuttle has left Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde, Jake Dotchin and Luke Witkowski in the dressing room. Joel Vermin, sent back to the Crunch on Sunday, was recalled Monday for tonight’s game. Byron Froese, acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade, played two games before being sent back to Syracuse.
“It’s kind of been crazy,” Dumont said. “Even at the beginning of the year I was hurt and guys were getting called up and called up and called up and then I get here and people just kept coming.”
Re-signing Steven Stamkos and keeping Bishop for another season before he turned free agent was the blueprint for what was projected to be a long and successful playoff run.
We know what went wrong. Injuries, poor play then the trades and now the Lightning find themselves on the outside of a playoff spot facing the visiting Coyotes tonight in a must-win game.
But you can’t blame the new faces, many of them rookies. In fact, you can credit them for keeping the team afloat.
“They’re doing all they can to help us win,” coach Jon Cooper said.
“They’ve done a…