TAMPA — It took a little longer than he had hoped, but C Cedric Paquette made his season debut Thursday in the 5-3 loss to the Stars.
Paquette hadn't played since a Sept. 26 exhibition game in Dallas, where he suffered a left foot/ankle injury blocking a shot. But Paquette has mostly been a scratch since due to the strong play of all four Tampa Bay lines, including the fourth unit with C Brian Boyle, Vladislav Namestnikov and J.T. Brown.
But Paquette didn't look rusty, with four hits and three shots, finishing minus-1 in 13:40 of ice time. His line with C Valtteri Filppula and RW J.T. Brown often defended the Stars' top line with LW Jamie Benn.
"I thought he was really good," coach Jon Cooper said of Paquette. " 'Fil,' Brown and Paquette went up against one of the top lines in the league and did a heck of a job."
Turns out, the team needed Paquette against the Stars. LW Alex Killorn was a late scratch due to an upper-body injury; he was day-to-day, with Cooper saying he had a nagging issue.
Paquette said he's close to 100 percent, other than the discomfort of the skate rubbing against the five-stitch cut on his foot. "It's never easy to sit when you're healthy," he said. "But I was banged up at the beginning and the team was winning. I understood the situation, but I'm ready."
BISH PLEASE: G Ben Bishop made his fifth consecutive start to open the season. He entered the game one win shy of setting the franchise record for wins, having tied Nikolai Khabibulin at 83. "It's exciting," he said. "Obviously it'll be an honor (to get the record), but … hopefully we can set the bar pretty high."
There are two days between games Saturday and Tuesday, with another two before a back-to-back next Friday and Saturday in Winnipeg and Chicago. It looks like Bishop could play the next two games, with Winnipeg a possible night for him to be off with the Blackhawks looming the next night.
Bishop said he's feeling good. "He's been playing extremely well for us," Cooper said. "He's our No. 1 and no reason he shouldn't play."
TV TIME: Captain Steven Stamkos had a blast Wednesday watching his hometown Blue Jays beat the Rangers in a thrilling elimination game to advance to the American League Championship Series. "That was the best game of baseball I've ever seen," he said.
bad bounces: It was a tough night for D Matt Carle, with at least one, and maybe two, of Dallas' goals bouncing in off him. Then there was Benn's power-play goal in the first, when a cross-zone feed from C Jason Spezza zipped through Carle's legs to Benn at the back post. "I thought (D Jason Garrison) had a good beat on Spezza over in the corner," Carle said. "And I don't know if I got too aggressive. Obviously I didn't really see Benn coming back door, and he made a bang-bang play there.
NUTS AND BOLTS: D Nikita Nesterov was in the lineup, with Andrej Sustr scratched. … The Lightning, which struggles in faceoffs, won 66 percent, including 4-of-5 on the penalty kill.