The Tampa Bay Lightning trimmed their active roster down to 27 yesterday, sending 26 players packing in the process. This round of cuts sets up the difficult decision still remaining for Steve Yzerman and Co., with four more players set to be released. Thus, trimming the active roster down to the required 23 spots.
The following players were assigned to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League;
goaltenders Dustin Tokarski, Jaroslav Janus and Pat Nagle, forwards Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Carter Ashton, Alex Hutchings and James Wright, Cory Conacher, Matt Fornataro, Eric Neilson, Gabriel Desjardins, Philip-Michael Devos and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Ondrej Palat, and defensemen Mark Barberio, Jeff Dimmen, Kevin Quick, and Radko Gudas.
The Bolts also placed five forwards and two defensemen on waivers. If not picked up by another team they will also be reporting to Norfolk. They are as follows; forwards Mike Angelidis, Michel Ouellet, JT Wyman, Alex Picard and Trevor Smith, and defensemen Richard Petiot and Mike Vernace. Junior-eligible D-man Daniel Milan has been reassigned to the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL.
Stevie Y knows that it’s never an easy decision to cut somebody, but acknowledges the toughest decisions lie ahead.
"We obviously have more decisions to make," Yzerman said. "We have eight defensemen battling for spots, ice time and potentially a roster spot, and then we have forwards who are doing the same.
"So, it's an important time for those guys, and they will probably all get in the final two preseason games. And then we will have to make those decisions.''
The Bolts practiced this morning before heading to the Montreal area for three days of team building in Mont-Tremblant before back-to-back games versus the Habs. Those considered to be on the bubble to make the final roster include Mattias Ritola, Blair Jones, Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell, and 2010 first-rounder Brett Connolly.
Bolts bench boss Guy Boucher was quick to remind his squad that not just the so-called bubble players need to be concerned with their occupational status.
"There is absolutely no clarity, and right now it's the opposite," Boucher said. "There are a lot of players that are fighting for spots.
"And they are not necessarily fighting for the 13th spot, they could be fighting for higher spots, and that is what I told the players the other day, the vets and everybody. It's not still, 'Let's get through this training camp.' If somebody is better than you, they are taking your spot.''
Boucher wants his players to know that he is not happy with where the Bolts’ work ethic and game mentality is at right now.
"We're far from where we were last year at the end of the year," he said. "Work ethic, our relentlessness and our details are not there right now. We have to get that, we have to solidify our identity and that's why those two games are there."
Boucher was also quick to call out the more established stars on the roster to use these games in Montreal to be ready for immediate success come October.
"One, the vets have to get their game and the new guys trying to make the team are going to have to prove it," he said, "because there's only two games left to prove it."
Today was Boucher’s first full practice session with the training camp roster. He spent most of that time working on the power play, insisting that the team needs a refresher in that area.
"You still have that image, but in reality its not there," he said. "The guys forget about everything, they forget about the details, they're not relentless and that's not good enough. It's my job to make sure we get to that point."
With only 120 minutes of hockey remaining before the games really count, Bolts fans will surely be hoping that Boucher gets everyone on the same page before the puck drops on a big season in Hockey Bay.
Note: Injured forward Ryan Malone is travelling with the team to Quebec and is expected to suit up for both pre-season affairs against the Habs. Defenseman Scott Jackson remained in Florida to continue rehab on his surgically repaired knee.