PITTSBURGH — This has been a tough season for veteran D Matt Carle.
Carle, 31, has been a healthy scratch this season more than he ever has in his career and is often a subject of trade speculation, considering his $5.5 million salary cap hit the next two seasons.
Then there was Carle having zero points in his first 41 games.
But that changed in a big way Saturday, with Carle racking up a goal and an assist, and being a season-high plus-3 in the Lightning's 4-2 win over the Penguins.
"There were a lot of goose eggs after my name on the stat sheet, so it was nice to get rid of a few of those," he said.
Carle said the point drought weighed on him "a little bit here and there," especially considering he has three 30-plus-point seasons in his career.
"But you've got to focus on playing the game the right way," he said. "And as a defenseman, those kind of things come and go."
Carle said he has benefited from playing in six consecutive games after having been a healthy scratch in 10 of the previous 13. After being minus-6 in the first four of those games, he is plus-5 in his past two.
"It takes a little bit to get back into game shape and get used to the speed of things," he said.
With the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, Carle has said he hopes to remain with the Lightning, though it's "out of my control." He has a limited no-move clause.
"Matty is a pro," coach Jon Cooper said, "so naturally he doesn't want to sit. Nobody wants to sit. But he's a pro and a team guy. He's been phenomenal. He got his chance to get back in (Saturday), and (I) thought he made the best of it."
TOUGH LUCK: C Cedric Paquette might have played his best game of the season, being an agitator all over the ice with three hits and three blocked shots. But his game ended early. He hobbled off the ice and was helped to the dressing room after taking a shot off his left foot/leg with just under two minutes to go.
Cooper didn't have an update on Paquette.
"That was another big-time block," Cooper said. "That's the things you have to do to win a hockey game, and I hope he's okay."
Paquette missed the start of the season after hurting the same foot/ankle blocking a shot in the preseason.
"It's unreal," Cooper said. "It's the only place he gets hit."
LINING UP: C Vladislav Namestnikov, who missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury, returned to the lineup. … RW Jonathan Marchessault played for the third straight game, picking up two assists after scoring Thursday. … RW Erik Condra was a healthy scratch, as was D Nikita Nesterov. … Defensemen Victor Hedman (25:52) and Anton Stralman (25:49) played more than 25 minutes.
NUTS AND BOLTS: Though Cooper didn't rule out G Ben Bishop starting again today against Carolina, you wonder with this being the dads trip if Cooper will go with Andrei Vasilevskiy, whose dad, Andrei, is on the trip and who had a shutout when his dad saw his first NHL game in person Jan. 27. … Ducks assistant GM Dave Baseggio caught another Lightning game, with the Panthers, Islanders and Jets also having representatives in attendance.