ANAHEIM -- Although Anaheim Ducks center Nate Thompson is a game-time decision Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, all signs point to him playing in his first game since having shoulder surgery in June.
Thompson is slotted to play on the fourth line with Mike Santorelli and Chris Stewart.
"Tonight I'll take warmups and see if I get the call," Thompson said. "It's exciting, for sure. The last couple days, I haven't been able to stop smiling. It's like Christmas for me. I'm excited to get going again."
Thompson scored five goals with 13 assists and 39 penalty minutes last season, his first with the Ducks. He injured his shoulder in the Ducks' final regular-season game against the Arizona Coyotes. He returned for the Western Conference Second Round against the Calgary Flames and was diagnosed with a torn labrum after Anaheim was eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.
Thompson played two games with San Diego of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment last week, which he said was beneficial in helping him get reacquainted with the speed of the game.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau says he's happy to have Thompson's versatility back on the fourth line.
"He's a responsible fourth-line guy," Boudreau said. "I can use him in all situations. I can use him as a faceoff guy, a good penalty killer, I can use him in the last 10 minutes of the game. If we're having to protect a lead he can play left wing and he can skate and he's physical."
Thompson's physical presence is especially welcome against a Lightning team that has burned the Ducks with its speed in the past. Tampa Bay has won its past three games against Anaheim, including a 5-0 victory Nov. 21 at Amalie Arena.
"You just try to take the confidence of knowing you've had success against this team," Lightning defenseman Matt Carle said. "Knowing we match up against these guys pretty well and have played well against them in the past, that helps out a lot."
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos
Jonathan Drouin - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov
J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Joel Vermin - Erik Condra - Jonathan Marchessault
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Matt Carle - Jason Garrison
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Injured: Ondrej Palat (ankle), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Tyler Johnson (undisclosed)
Scratched: Nikita Nesterov
Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Nick Ritchie - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Carl Hagelin - Shawn Horcoff - Andrew Cogliano
Mike Santorelli - Nate Thompson - Chris Stewart
Cam Fowler - Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson
Sami Vatanen - Clayton Stoner
Injured: Simon Despres (concussion symptoms), Jiri Sekac (ankle)
Scratched: Patrick Maroon, Frederik Andersen
Status report: The Lightning held an optional morning skate … Anaheim sent defenseman Shea Theodore back to San Diego on Tuesday. … Andersen continues to practice with the Ducks after recovering from the flu. He has missed the past four games.
Who's hot: Rakell has three goals in his past four games… Perry has three goals and two assists in the same span… Bishop is 5-0-1 with one shutout against the Ducks in his career… In seven games against Anaheim, Stamkos has seven goals and five assists. He also has five points in his past four games.