As they navigate a cap crunch that has seen key pieces of their core stripped away one by one over time, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had to get more and more creative filling out their lineup. The organization has used a mix of young players in their system developed to their liking and affordable veterans with a winning pedigree to round things out. One of those players is 37-year-old Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who the team signed to a two-year deal back in 2021.
Recently, Bellemare has been away from the team on a personal leave of absence, the root of which is unknown. Earlier today, Tampa Bay Times reporter Eduardo Encina spoke with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who confirmed that Bellemare will join the team on their upcoming road trip, which will travel through Buffalo, Boston, and Philadelphia. It’s unclear if Bellemare, who last played on Monday, is expected to play on this trip. Although the veteran hasn’t been out very long, it’s possible due to the leave that he may not have been able to continue skating regularly and could need an extra couple days to be ready.
- Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov will miss the team’s next two games due to illness, says Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards. The nature of Barkov’s illness is unknown, but apparently is serious enough that not only can Barkov not play in tomorrow’s game in Edmonton and Tuesday’s in Calgary, but the forward is not traveling with the Panthers for the Alberta leg of the road trip. After Tuesday, Florida will head out to Vancouver for a Thursday evening matchup with the Canucks, a game which Barkov has not been ruled out for. Barkov missed yesterday’s game against the St. Louis Blues with this same illness.
- Columbus Blue Jackets winger Johnny Gaudreau did not practice today due to an unknown illness, says Jeff Svoboda of BlueJackets.com. Per Svoboda, Columbus head coach Brad Larsen said he’ll know more tomorrow about Gaudreau’s availability for tomorrow night’s game. Gaudreau has not missed any games thus far with the illness. While the team is struggling this year, the first-year Jacket has not, posting 20 points in 20 games to date.
- Detroit Red Wings forward Elmer Soderblom is still not practicing, reports Michigan Live’s Ansar Khan. At last report on November 21st, Soderblom was still listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, though head coach Derek Lalonde then said Soderblom’s return could take “some time.” The rookie has two points, both goals, in 13 games this season, but has not played since November 8th due to the injury.