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  1. Lightning

Cast off, Victor Hedman back skating

TAMPA — D Victor Hedman's cast is off and he's back on the ice, saying his recovery from a fractured right index finger is going well.

But coach Jon Cooper said Thursday he still doesn't expect to see Hedman return to the lineup until early December.

When Hedman suffered the injury Oct. 18 in Vancouver, resulting in surgery a few days later, it was estimated he'd be out 4-6 weeks. Saturday marks three weeks. "Everything has been going in the right direction," Hedman said.

Hedman is still wearing a splint, but he was happy to resume skating the past couple of days and start workouts to keep up his conditioning. He said he would know more next week when he has a followup with his doctor but he hopes to return before six weeks.

"You never know," he said.

Hedman has been encouraged to see how well the Lightning is doing without him, winning five of its first seven games.

"The team has been playing great," Hedman said. "Everyone has been stepping up, and it's been different guys every night. It's a lot of fun to watch the team win, makes it a little bit easier to be sidelined."

STARRY NIGHT: Commissioner Gary Bettman made his annual visit to Tampa on Thursday, leaving impressed with the organization, from the fans to the renovations to Amalie Arena, and especially owner Jeff Vinik.

"The vital signs are great," he said.

Bettman said Vinik has been "extraordinarily proactive" in potentially hosting an All-Star Game, noting it could happen down the road. The Lightning hosted in 1999.

"This is a great place to host events. We'll be back at some point in some form," Bettman said. "Maybe when some of the construction around the area (Channelside area) is done, it'll make for an even more compelling event and gathering of people. We're keeping an eye on it."

Bettman also said he and Vinik talked "theoretically" about an outdoor game.

STILL OUT: C Alex Killorn was out for the fifth time in the previous eight games because of an upper-body injury he suffered Saturday against the Capitals. It has been frustrating for Killorn, who played all 82 games last season.

"I (hadn't) missed a game since going pro. I don't think I missed a game in college, so I can't remember the last game I missed,'' Killorn said. "It's really frustrating, especially when you are getting over an injury and get injured again on a stupid play. At least it's not too bad; it's day to day, so I'm optimistic, in that sense.''

Killorn said his injury is unrelated to the one that forced him to sit out four games on the last road trip. But Killorn, who participated in the morning skate (in a red no-contact jersey) could return during for the next trip, starting Saturday in Columbus.

ICE CHIPS: G Ben Bishop made his fourth straight start against the Flames. … LW Ondrej Palat and C Valtteri Filppula were alternate captains. … D Mark Barberio was also scratched. … LW Jonathan Drouin got power-play time on the second unit.