Cameron Gaunce sent back to Crunch, Girardi or Stralman return imminent?

The Lightning announced today that defenseman Cameron Gaunce has been sent back to the AHL just a day after he was called up to serve as the go-to seventh man for the Bolts’ D-line.

The call-up was made after there was speculation that Mikhail Sergachev might have to sit out Monday night’s game against Arizona due to a hard hit he took from Capitals forward Tom Wilson on Saturday.

The move today comes on Gaunce’s 29th birthday, which of course is not really the best birthday news for a veteran AHL defenseman seeking opportunities at the NHL level.

Since joining the AHL nine years ago, Gaunce has logged 591 games in the AHL and just 32 NHL games. He has yet to make an appearance on the ice in a Bolts sweater and likely won’t this season, as long as Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman can get and remain healthy.

Girardi and Stralman have each missed five-straight games due to lower body injuries, but this move could signal that a return is imminent for at least one of them.

Fortunately the Lightning have been able to lean on Jan Rutta to fill the sixth spot on the defensive depth chart, sliding into the third pairing with Braydon Coburn. Through his Lightning debut-stretch of the last five games, Rutta has proven himself as a dependable backup in an already crowded Tampa Bay defensive roster.

It is good to know that the Bolts have options on the blueline, should they face any longer-term injury issues down the stretch and into the postseason. But if the Lightning can have it their way, much to the chagrin of Gaunce, they would hope to have a fully healthy lineup and not require any call-ups from Syracuse at all.