As the Super Bowl party leaves Tampa Bay on Monday, the goaltending situation for the Bolts is almost as suspenseful as last night's 4th quarter. Both the Tampa Tribune and St. Pete Times are reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have (unofficially) signed Norfolk Admirals netminder Mike McKenna to an NHL contract in the aftermath of successful biceps tendon surgery to Olaf Kolzig on Saturday. Kolzig is expected to miss the remainder of the season rehabbing his repaired left arm. During the intermission of Friday night's game against Philadelphia, Lightning GM Brian Lawton hinted that McKenna was one of the alternatives being considered for the backup role to Mike Smith for the balance of the season. McKenna practiced with the team Monday morning ahead of flying out with the team to Long Island for Tuesday night's tilt against the struggling Islanders.
McKenna's signing triggered the reassignment of prospect goaltender Riku Helenius to Norfolk, presumably to start the remaining four games of fellow prospect goalie Karri Ramo's suspension. Ramo is currently serving a six game AHL suspension for leaving the bench during a late game on-ice altercation last week. In the interim, Admirals signed goaltender Tyler Sims to a PTO late last week to serve as the team's backup goaltender while Ramo serves out his suspension.
However, in surprising turn of events, both Tampa papers broke the news today that Mike Smith would not make the trip to New York with the team, citing an upper body injury to the Lightning's No.1 goalie, along with news that Ramo was being recalled from Norfolk on an emergency basis. It is unlikely that the recall will delay the completion of Ramo's suspension as the Admirals do not play again until Friday, and there's been no definitive word on whether McKenna or Ramo will start against the Islanders. Lawton, in a quote from the St. Pete Times, indicated that Smith's injury is fairly minor and he may join the team Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
As had been widely reported in the local Tampa media, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today that prospect goaltender Karri Ramo has been returned to the Norfolk Admirals to begin serving his six-game AHL suspension resulting from an altercation last Friday night's game in which Ramo left the bench during an on-ice brawl. With Olaf Kolzig on IR pending season-ending biceps tendon surgery, prospect netminder Riku Helenius has been subsequently recalled from Norfolk to backup Mike Smith.
In a series of back-to-back promotions with the Lightning system, Tampa Bay Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced on Monday that the Bolts have recalled prospect forward Steve Downie from the Norfolk Admirals. In addition, the Lightning announced that they also recalled prospect goaltender Karri Ramo from the Admirals to Tampa on an emergency basis.
Downie's recall was expected, with the Lightning indicating last week that he would be recalled after the NHL All-Star break -- a move that would prevent him from participating in the AHL All-Star game Monday night. However, Ramo's emergency recall was a bit of a surprise, as the St. Pete Times reported on Monday that Tampa veteran netminder Olaf Kolzig suffered a setback during the All-Star break with respect to his injured left arm, and was placed back on IR.
With Ramo recalled to Tampa, the Lightning announced on Tuesday that prospect goaltender Riku Helenius has been reassigned from Mississippi (ECHL) to Norfolk to back up Admirals goalie Mike McKenna. Helenius was assigned to the Gulf Coast last Friday, backing up Sea Wolves and former Bolt prospect goaltender Ryan Munce in two weekend games but seeing no game action.
As the NHL All-Star Break begins, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned prospects Steve Downie and Ty Wishart to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today. Admirals General Manager Mike Butters also announced today that prospect goaltender Riku Helenius has been reassigned from the Admirals to the ECHL's Mississippi Sea Wolves.
According to the St. Pete Times, as part of the organization's plan to rotate defensemen from the Norfolk Admirals roster to the Tampa roster in its continuing process of evaluating talent in the system, the Lightning have recalled prospect defenseman Ty Wishart and reassigned Kevin Quick.
Despite Tocchet's comments that the switch was just part of the plan, the acquisition of Cory Murphy as a small-body puckmover and power play quarterback clearly made Quick's contributions to the roster less of a necessity and allows the organization to bring up a bigger and more physical blueliner in the form of the 6.04 Wishart, especially with the absence of Matt Smaby from the lineup. Quick was relegated to just 9:50 of ice time against Dallas with Murphy in the lineup as compared to 17:52 against Florida on Saturday night.