TAMPA -- After spending the first third of the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it appeared Vladislav Namestnikov would be going through the postseason with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
The 22-year-old forward was recalled again March 4, and he's made it hard for coach Jon Cooper to keep him out of the lineup.
Namestnikov, the No. 27 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has established a role on the team that gives Cooper plenty of flexibility. He has the scoring touch to play on one of the top two lines if needed but possesses the grit and toughness that make him a good fit on the third line with Cedric Paquette or the fourth line next to Brian Boyle.
He's shown the skill set to be used on either special teams unit and he has three game-winning goals, showing he isn't afraid to make a play with the game on the line.
"[Namestnikov] has shown that he has the ability to play here and he's made it really hard for me to pull him out of the lineup right now," Cooper said. "As we approach the playoffs you want to have a relatively healthy team and play the guys that give you the best chance to win. He's one of those guys."