BUFFALO, N.Y. — Just few days ago, C Cedric Paquette seemed discouraged about his left ankle injury, not sure when he would be able to play.
But Thursday, Paquette returned to the Lightning lineup against the Sabres thanks to an equipment breakthrough: padding in his skate that alleviated irritation when rubbed up against the cut on the ankle.
"We just had to find something, and we did," Paquette said. "That's what I was waiting for."
Paquette had missed five games since his ankle injury — suffered blocking a shot in a Sept. 25 exhibition game in Dallas — got worse Oct. 24 against the Blackhawks. The issue was that the cut, which required five stitches, made it uncomfortable to wear his skate.
Paquette joked that they had tried "hundreds" of paddings, head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan finally finding a suitable one after a recent 90-minute session. Paquette skated for more than an hour on Wednesday's off-day and felt great. He was encouraged after Thursday's morning skate, too.
"I can put my ankle in my skates without much pain," he said.
SIBLING SCRATCHED: Paquette's return spoiled the potential special sibling showdown between Lightning LW Tye McGinn and older brother Jamie, a Sabres wing. Tye was scratched.
Tye, called up Sunday from AHL Syracuse, had already faced younger brother Brock, a Carolina forward, Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., and took him out to dinner. Jamie did the same for Tye on Wednesday night, saying it is "surreal" all three brothers from Fergus, Ontario, are in the NHL at the same time.
"It's been amazing," Tye said. "Not many people get to experience that."
GETTING THE NOD? With Canada's coaching staff for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey announced Thursday (see NHL roundup, this page), don't be surprised if Lightning coach Jon Cooper is eventually named an assistant on the North American team staff, led by Oilers coach Todd McLellan. Cooper is a strong candidate to help lead the team, which will have the top players 23 and younger from the United States and Canada.
LINING UP: D Matt Carle was a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Though Cooper has said it's not anything against Carle and he just wants to get each of his seven defensemen playing time, it's still telling that the team is sitting its highest-paid defenseman ($5.5 million). It has been widely speculated the Lightning is shopping Carle, who has a limited no-move clause.
D Nikita Nesterov, scratched the past two games, was back in the lineup.
IN GOAL: Andrei Vasilevskiy started in net. It made sense, with Cooper wanting Vasilevskiy to form a "1 and 1A tandem" with Ben Bishop, who has 12 starts. Vasilevskiy made his season debut Sunday.
NUTS AND BOLTS: LW Jonathan Drouin (lower body) missed his fifth straight game. "Not skating like I want," he said. … The Lightning once again switched up its lines, with Valtteri Filppula playing right wing on the top line with LW Ondrej Palat and C Steven Stamkos. RW Ryan Callahan moved down to third line to play with LW Vladislav Namestnikov and Paquette.
Contact Joe Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.