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MORROW HOPES TO PLAY SATURDAY

Lightning veteran wing Brenden Morrow returned to the ice Thursday, having been limited the past three days due to a stiff back.

Morrow, 35, was encouraged about how he felt after a long workout, and though he didn't play Thursday night against the Panthers at BB&T Center, he hopes to get into the preseason finale against the Panthers on Saturday at Amalie Arena.

"I had a good day, so spirits are pretty high," Morrow said. "It's been frustrating the last couple days, but I felt really good. I think we'll see how it reacts ... but I'm hopeful for Saturday."

The Lightning signed Morrow to a one-year, $1.55 million deal last summer to provide much-needed experience to a young forward corps. One of the first to show up in Brandon for informal skates in August, Morrow looked good in camp playing alongside C Brian Boyle, though he has appeared in only one game.

Morrow wants to get one more tuneup before next week's regular-season opener to get his timing back. "One game is not ideal. You'd like to get a few in," Morrow said. "The locker room is great. I was comfortable with the team even before camp started. The systems aren't something that are instincts yet, so I'd like to play in a game so the reaction isn't to think when you're out there, it's just that instinct when you play. I don't know if that's up to speed right now."

Morrow pointed out he arrived late in camp with the Blues last season and played in only one preseason game. He'd just prefer not to do that again.

DROUIN UPDATE: Touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin said he'll get an X-ray in the next couple of days to see how his fractured right thumb is healing. He has been at practice the past three days wearing a no-contact jersey and said the thumb feels better when he stick handles and takes wrist shots.

But with just a week before the regular season starts, it doesn't appear likely Drouin will be ready, as much as he has hoped he would be. Coach Jon Cooper said the Lightning won't rush Drouin, partly because it doesn't believe it has to.

"Do I hope he'd be ready? It's just another weapon in the arsenal we can use," Cooper said. "But in saying that, we want to make sure this is 100 percent healthy and not a nagging thing. As of (Thursday), we're not in any position where we need to rush him back. It will be nice to get him back sooner rather than later, just for his confidence so we can see what we have."

STAYING BACK: Morrow, Boyle, C Jonathan Marchessault, D Eric Brewer, D Jason Garrison, D Andrej Sustr, G Ben Bishop and Drouin did not make the trip to Sunrise.

GAME DETAILS: The Lightning beat the Panthers 3-0, outshooting them 33-21. ... C Tyler Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat got their first preseason points, Johnson assisting on Palat's first-period goal. ... RW Nikita Kucherov scored twice, including an empty-netter, giving him a team-high five goals, and was set up twice by C Vladislav Namestnikov, who has ateam-high seven assists. ... G Evgeni Nabokov played the whole game and made 21 saves. ... C Steven Stamkos was thrown down in the corner by D Erik Gudbranson in the second period, and C Alex Killorn came to his defense. Stamkos then traded punches with C Jussi Jokinen. ...The Lightning (4-1) is 24-for-24 on penalty kill this preseason.

THE END: The Lightning wrapped up its week in Estero and was scheduled to have a team golf outing today before returning to Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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