TAMPA — Though Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has played in 170 games and has 95 wins in his NHL career, he said he still gets excited before his first game of the season. And though Friday's was just a preseason game, Bishop was ready to get back on the ice.
His team was ready to see him back on the ice, and healthy as well. The last time the Lightning has seen Bishop healthy was in Game 2 of last season's Stanley Cup final. In that contest, Bishop suffered a torn groin.
In Friday's 4-1 win against the Panthers — the Lightning's first in three preseason games — Bishop didn't appear to have any rust. More important, he didn't appear to have any setbacks.
"It was fun to be back out there again," Bishop said. "I've been skating here for a month, so it was nice to have some live action that means something. It's nice to get back into the game."
Bishop played 29:35, faced 18 shots and stopped all of them. He looked comfortable, easily moving from side to side and deflecting shots that came his way. His best save came in the first period when he was forced to slide right to left to stop a rebound shot by D Alex Petrovic.
"It was good to see 'Bish' in there, get his feet wet," coach Jon Cooper said.
DROUIN LOOKS GOOD WITH STAMKOS: The pairing of wing Jonathan Drouin with C Steven Stamkos continued to look good. After netting a goal in his preseason debut, Drouin was flying again, getting robbed twice in the first period by Florida G Al Montoya. But he was able to get on the score sheet with an assist on the second goal by RW Nikita Kucherov, which made it 4-0. Stamkos got the second assist on the goal.
"You can tell he's hungry and wants to take on a bigger role," said Stamkos. "I would love to help out. We still haven't played a lot with each other, just here or there last year. Hopefully, we'll continue to grow that chemistry."
Cooper likes what he's seeing in Drouin.
"Consistency is a big part of the game," Cooper said. "With (Drouin), he's such a dynamic talent. There were a couple of plays and not too much is happening for him, and all of a sudden he finds himself alone in front of the net with the puck. Some of these guys the puck follows around, and he's one of them."
GUDLEVSKIS MAKES DEBUT: G Kristers Gudlevskis made his preseason debut after missing most of camp with an upper-body injury. Gudlevskis is battling for the backup position with Andrei Vasilevskiy out after blood clot-related surgery. He made 17 saves on 18 shots in relief of Bishop.
He missed the shutout on a fluke goal when the puck hit the post, then went in off his backside. "I was happy being on NHL ice and (in an) NHL rink," Gudlevskis said. "I felt pretty good on the ice."
THIS AND THAT: In addition to Kucherov's two goals, RW Erik Condra and C Matt Peca scored their first goals of the preseason. … Defensemen Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman, C Brian Boyle and RW Ryan Callahan also made their preseason debuts. … The next home game is Thursday against Dallas at 7:30 p.m.