To make it to the NHL, Lightning LW B.J. Crombeen took the long route.
From the East Coast Hockey League to the American Hockey League, over to Europe for a season, back to the ECHL and then the AHL before finding his way to the NHL, Crombeen worked his way through the ranks to become a regular in the rank and file.
The 27-year-old persevered in those early years before landing a full-time role with the St. Louis Blues in the 2008-09 season. Since then, Crombeen has been a popular teammate, an active member of the NHL Players Association and recently earned a two-year contract extension with Tampa Bay.
For his hard-fought path to the NHL, Crombeen was selected by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the Lightning nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The award, voted on by the full PHWA membership among the 30 nominees, is given to the player who "exhibits, to a high degree, the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
The three finalists will be announced this summer, with the winner introduced at the NHL Awards show in June.
"When you put a lot of pride and hard work into what you do, and you get honored for something like that, it's special feeling and accomplishment," Crombeen said. "You just try to work your hardest every day and that's something I've tried to do ever since I started playing hockey."
Crombeen was previously nominated for the Masterton while with the Blues.
"You cheer for those guys," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "To have guys come from 'nowhere' and play in leagues that nobody has ever heard of, to get to the National Hockey League is impressive."
At first glance, it looked as though D Radko Gudas' season would be cut short when his right leg wrapped and bent awkwardly under the weight of Joe Colborne during the first period of Wednesday's game against Toronto.
Gudas struggled to the bench, unable to put any weight on the leg. He needed help to get to the trainer's room.
"It scared me because everything was hurting from my knee to my ankle and everything was wrong,'' Gudas said. "I didn't know what to expect because I already had an ACL once, so I didn't know if it was going to be good or not.''
After some work, Gudas, who does yoga to help with his stretching, came out with the team to start the second period.
"I guess I'm lucky that I'm so flexible,'' he joked.
Gudas and RW Richard Panik were sent to Syracuse after Thursday's game to get ready for the AHL playoffs, which begin Saturday.
Three Tampa Bay players accepted invitations to play for Team USA at next month's World Hockey Championships, according to the initial roster that was released Thursday.
C Nate Thompson returns after being a part of the team last year, joined by D Matt Carle. G Ben Bishop will make his second appearance with the team and has the chance to be the No. 1 goaltender heading into the tournament, which starts May 3 in Sweden and Finland.
"It's an honor to do that," Bishop said.
D Mathieu Roy, signed to a contract for the remainder of the season on Tuesday, joined the team Thursday and is expected to play in Saturday's season finale. ... LW Ryan Malone (fever) was scratched for the second consecutive night. ... LW Benoit Pouliot engaged in his fifth career fight during the first period, taking on Boston D Andrew Ference. Of his five fights, three have come against the Bruins, including two against Ference. Pouliot played for Boston during the 2011-12 season.