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Keller Recalled to Norfolk

The Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned forward Justin Keller to the Norfolk Admirals from the ECHL's Augusta Lynx, Admirals General Manager Mike Butters announced today.

Keller, 22, is a 6'0", 181-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia. He was originally assigned from Norfolk to Augusta on October 22 and put up four goals and an assist in four games with the Lynx. In two games for Norfolk to begin this season, the third-year pro registered one assist.

Keller was one of just three players with a Lightning NHL contract that was not invited to this year's training camp, and has struggled to distinguish himself with the new forward depth in the Tampa system that the new club ownership has acquired. In two prior professional seasons with Norfolk and Springfield, Keller has scored 28 goals and 23 assists in 130 AHL games played. Keller's three-year entry-level contract expires at the end of this season.

Niskala Reassigned to Europe

Multiple local Tampa sources are reporting today that Lightning overaged defensive prospect Janne Niskala cleared waivers at noon and will be reassigned to a European team. Niskala had reportedly signed a contract at the beginning of the summer with a European KHL team, prompting the Nashville Predators to trade his rights to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning subsequently acquired Niskala's rights from the Flyers just prior to the beginning of free agency for a 2009 6th round pick, and signed the blueliner to a one-year contract with a European out-clause in case he was unable to make the Tampa roster.

Niskala earned a roster spot in training camp with solid offensive contributions both at even strength and on the power play. But the acquisitions of Lucas Krajicek and Marek Malik to the Lightning's blueline along with the return of Paul Ranger from IR after the team returned from their season openers in Prague relegated Niskala to the pressbox as the team's seventh defenseman. Niskala was reportedly unhappy about being scratched and recently met with Tampa GM Brian Lawton to discuss his future with the club.

With the European leagues on break, Niskala was reassigned to the Swedish National Team, and will eventually join a yet unnamed club in the SM-Liiga. Niskala will be available prior to the trade deadline for recall to Tampa, but would need to clear recall waivers. Niskala scored 1 goal and added 2 assists in 6 games for the Lightning this season.

Keller Reassigned to Augusta

The Norfolk Admirals have reassigned Lightning prospect forward Justin Keller to the Augusta Lynx of ECHL. Keller, on the third year of his entry level contract, has registered 1 assist in 3 games for the Admirals this season. Keller was Norfolk's representative at last season's AHL All-Star game, finishing the season third on the team in goals and fourth in points.

The 6’0”, 181-pound forward from Nelson, British Columbia was an 8th round draft pick of the Lightning in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, making his pro debut in 2006-07 with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. His 13 goals, 4 power play goals and 24 points led all Springfield rookies. In 132 career American Hockey League games, Keller has scored 28 goals and added 34 assists for 62 points with 71 penalty minutes.

Prior to turning pro, Keller played three seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. In 216 games with Kelowna, Keller scored 107 goals and 80 assists. He led the WHL with 51 goals in 2005-06 and scored the Memorial Cup winning goal with the Rockets in 2004.

Keller's addition to the Lynx should result in an immediate impact on Augusta's offense, as Keller has a sniper's touch and a willingness to play in the high traffic areas.

Lightning Reassign Helenius to Augusta

According to a report in the Augusta Chronicle, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned goaltending prospect and 2006 1st round pick Riku Helenius from the AHL's Norfolk Admirals to the ECHL's Augusta Lynx. This move was not unexpected as Helenius had been a healthy scratch for both of Norfolk's season opening games last weekend behind goaltenders Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna.

Helenius joins Tampa defensive prospect Kevin Quick who was reassigned last week, and the Lynx expect Helenius' arrival by as early as noon on Thursday. The Lynx open their 2008-09 season at home Friday night against the Mississippi Sea Wolves.

This season might prove to be a challenge for the Lynx with a relatively young and inexperienced roster comprised of nine rookies and seven more 2nd year pros. No player on the Lynx roster qualifies as an ECHL veteran of 250 professional games.

Fadden Returned to Lethbridge

Norfolk General Manager Mike Butters announced Thursday that forward Mitch Fadden would not be signed and was returned to WHL Lethbridge. Fadden, who had 89 points in 72 games last year for Lethbridge, was thought to be a lock for an NHL contract this summer. Prior to the new ownership taking over in Tampa, then-Lightning general manager Jay Feaster told Bolt Prospects it was his intention to get Fadden signed this summer, though they were not under any deadline to do so.

Bolts Reassign Mihalik

The St. Pete Times is reporting is reporting that prospect defenseman Vladimir Mihalik has been reassigned to the Norfolk Admirals. Mihalik was a training camp surprise, making the season opening Tampa roster ahead of several other blueliners including Andrew Hutchinson and Matt Smaby. Mihalik received praise from Lightning head coach Barry Melrose in his NHL debuts in Prague.

Mihalik's reassignment comes amid speculation that the Bolts might be interested in claiming Calgary Flames veteran defenseman Rhett Warrener off of waivers or signing free agent defensmen Bryan Berard, as the Lightning traded blueliner Shane O'Brien to Vancouver for Lukas Krajicek earlier today. Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger, listed as a non-roster player prior to the opener, might be ready to return to action as he continues to re-hab his off-season surgically repaired shoulder.

Ramo an Admiral Again

As expected, goaltender Karri Ramo has been assigned to AHL Norfolk after returning from Prague where he accompanied the Lightning for the first two games of the regular season. Ramo, who was excellent in the preseason, was penciled in for Norfolk ever since the Bolts signed veteran goalie Olaf Kolzig July 1. Ramo was recalled from Norfolk on December 19 of last year and never returned. He played 22 games for the Lightning last season, going 7-11-3 with a 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage. (source: tampabaylightning.com)

Quick Assigned to Augusta

The Norfolk Admirals have announced another round of cuts, and defenseman Kevin Quick has been reassigned to Augusta of the ECHL.

Unsigned prospect Mitch Fadden remains on the team and is, perhaps, awaiting a contract.

Ouellet Assigned to Norfolk

Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times reports winger Michel Ouellet has been assigned to AHL Norfolk after clearing waivers earlier this week.

Bochenski, Konopka Clear Waivers

Despite some concern of whether forwards Brandon Bochenski and Zenon Konopka would clear waivers, both forwards passed through unclaimed at noon on Monday and have been reassigned to the Norfolk Admirals. Bochenski and Konopka was cut from the Tampa Bay training camp on Thursday night just prior to the team leaving for its European season opener against the New York Rangers next weekend in Prague. Both had to wait until Saturday's beginning of the 2008-09 NHL waiver season. The two are expected to be two-thirds of the Admirals top line to start the 2008-09 season, with head coach Darren Rumble on record as saying that Konopka would serve as the team's captain if not claimed.

Preseason action continues for the 0-2-0-0 Admirals this Friday and Saturday when the Philadelphia Phantoms play back-to-back games at the Scope in Norfolk.

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