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Notebook: Bishop back in net tonight; Drouin sent home sick

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop missed the last four games with a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of the Bolts loss in Pittsburgh on December 15.

The three days off for the holiday break have served Bishop well, however. He'll make his return to the ice tonight, getting the start against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena.

"It's a good time to get away from the rink and not really think about hockey and spend some time with your family," Bishop said about the three days of rest. "Today was a good practice. You could tell everybody had some jump. It was exciting to be back out there."

In 26 games this season, Bishop has gone 16-6-2 with a 2.35 goals-allowed average and a .913 save percentage. After dealing with various ailments in an injury-plagued second half to the 2013-14 season, Bishop hadn't missed a game to injury this season until coming up gimpy with 1:15 remaining in the first period in Pittsburgh. He didn't return for the second period and hasn't played for the Lightning since.

Until tonight.

"It felt good last practice. It felt good again today," Bishop said. "Excited for tonight; it's been a while."

GARRISON STILL NOT READY

Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison practiced for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury last Saturday against the New York Islanders.

Although the veteran blue liner is nearing a return to action, it won't be tonight versus Carolina.

"He's not going to be ready for tonight," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "It was encouraging to see him out there, but, doubtful to out for tonight."

Garrison said rest is the key to his recovery, so having three days off was extremely beneficial.

"[Practicing Saturday] felt good at the pace I was going at, so tomorrow, have a good day today and I think tomorrow look at getting into a full practice situation," he said. "At least that's the game plan."

Asked if he thinks Monday is a reasonable possibility to expect his return, Garrison agreed.

"Monday is absolutely a reasonable possibility," Garrison said, before smiling and adding "for me," indicating the Lightning training staff will have the final say."

DROUIN MISSING

Lightning rookie forward Jonathan Drouin was notably absent from the Bolts' morning skate. Team officials said Drouin wasn't feeling well when he arrived at the arena and was sent home.

With the mumps outbreak that has sent a panic through the NHL this season, the first thought whenever a player gets sick is he might have contracted the virus. That's not the case with Drouin, though, Cooper reassured.

"Yes, when somebody's feeling sick now, do you think of it? Never, ever thought of it before, but now I guess you do," Cooper said. "So, yes, I did think about it, but there are no indications that that's the case."

Drouin likely has the same stomach virus that forced Radko Gudas to miss three games and Tyler Johnson one during the team's five-game road trip in mid-December.

With Drouin out tonight, Cedric Paquette was called up to the top line for Saturday morning's practice to skate with Steven Stamkos and Brett Connolly.

"I think I'm used to it by now being with a lot of different guys this year," Stamkos said. "You just want to simplify the game when you're playing with guys you're not used to playing with, support the puck, help each other out, especially early if you get some shots on net and start to feel good about your game. Whatever the lines are, they change a lot. You just try to adapt to the situation and help the team any way you can."

Paquette has a versatility few on the Lightning can match according to Cooper.

"He can play in the middle. He can play either wing," Cooper said. "Legitimately, he can play on the power play for you. He kills for you. He can be out the last minute of a game for you, which he is more often than not if we have a lead. He's a little bit of a bull in a china shop type player where he gets things done."

SHARPENING THE SKATES

While having three days off can be beneficial in terms of bodies resting and injuries healing, the extended layoff can also produce a few rusty minutes during the first game back.

"You hope that it's not like that, but…it's tough taking that kind of break off," Garrison said. "…You can lose that game feel pretty quickly. Usually it doesn't take too long to regain, probably like…half a period or whatever."

Cooper was encouraged by what he saw from his players during Saturday's return to the ice for the first time since a 4-3 victory over the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.

The Lightning are tied with Montreal and the New York Islanders in second place behind the Penguins in the East with 46 points.

"We had a lot of guys banged up, and anytime you get the rest, it was good because we're kind of hitting a little wall, we're pushing guys to a limit, their bodies were pushed to a limit," Cooper said. "To get this break was big for a lot of guys."

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