Update (11:00am CST): Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times relays word from Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper that Palat is indeed ready to go and will be in the lineup tonight. Subsequently, Vermin has been returned to Syracuse, according to this tweet from the Elite Prospects Twitter account. It would seem then that Vermin was up as a potential emergency recall as it’s unlikely he would have been reassigned to the AHL immediately upon word Palat was healthy enough to play had the team exercised one of its four recalls.
8:45am CST: The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the call-up of winger Joel Vermin from their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Bryan Burns, who covers the club for the team’s official website, added via Twitter the recall was necessary due to Ondrej Palat being banged up and questionable for tonight’s tilt against the Washington Capitals. Again according to Burns, Palat’s status should be made more clear following the team’s morning skate.
Vermin is one of several players the Lightning have had to shuttle back-and-forth between the big club and the Crunch in a season mired by injuries. In 11 appearances on the year, the 25-year-old winger has registered three points, all assists, to go with two penalty minutes while averaging 11;20 of ice time per game. The Swiss-born Vermin was originally a seventh-round draft selection by Tampa Bay in 2013 and has turned in a solid campaign for Syracuse with 12 goals and 28 points in 43 games for the Crunch.
The Lightning, despite selling assets at the trade deadline, have managed to sneak back into the playoff race and are currently just one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final Eastern Conference wild card slot. Already without centers Cedric Paquette and Tyler Johnson, both out of action since March 9th, the Tampa may also have to make do without the versatile Palat, who has 14 goals and 36 points on the season.
All told, 2016-17 has been a disappointing year for the Lightning, who were expected to be among the league’s elite teams and a Stanley Cup contender. Injuries to key players, including a significant knee injury which sidelined team captain Steven Stamkos back in November, have been a major factor in the club’s struggles but a surprising run which has seen the team accumulate 27 standings points over the last 18 contests has provided hope the Lightning will overcome and make the postseason. Should they do so, the Lightning would be a team no one wants to face, particularly with Stamkos eyeing a return to the lineup.