TAMPA — When it comes to Ben Bishop's return, the Lightning is California hoping.
The goalie, who has been out since Dec. 20 with a lower-body injury, skated in full pads the past two days and is expecting to return around the start of a six-game road trip that begins Jan. 16 in Los Angeles against the Kings.
"That's obviously still the goal, maybe sooner," Bishop said after Thursday's morning skate before the game against the Predators. "We'll take it as it goes. Things are going in the right direction. I'm excited to be back."
Bishop was injured against the Red Wings while making a save with his right pad. He said the injury wasn't serious, nor will it affect his career long term.
"I felt it right away," Bishop said. "It stinks. It's never fun to get hurt. But it's the same thing, not much you can do about it. Just deal with it."
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: AHL Syracuse linemates C Matthew Peca and LW Adam Erne were reunited when they were in the starting lineup. Peca was playing in his fifth NHL game, Erne in his second. "They've forced themselves to stay in the lineup," coach Jon Cooper said. "They don't give you a reason to pull them out. They're playing hard. They're playing with speed. They're playing with pace, and that's what we need."
WELCOME, WILCOX: G Adam Wilcox was recalled Wednesday, meaning all six players in the Lightning's 2011 draft class have made the NHL roster at some point (the others: forwards Peca, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, and D Nikita Nesterov). All six were on the bench Thursday.
Wilcox said he recently watched a Lightning game and saw a graphic with the 2011 class on it. Wilcox was the only one not on the NHL roster. "I'm like, 'I've got to be up there or I'll be the anchor of the draft class,' " he said.
Wilcox replaced Kristers Gudlevskis, who was sent back to Syracuse. He had received the bulk of the playing time with the Crunch even before Gudlevskis was called up Dec. 21 to back up Andrei Vasilevskiy after Bishop was injured. Wilcox is 13-5-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average.
Gudlevskis appeared in one game, replacing Vasilevskiy in the third period of a 4-0 loss at Washington on Dec. 23. The Lightning plays back-to-back games this weekend at Philadelphia (1 p.m. Saturday) and Pittsburgh (5 p.m. Sunday), so it's possible Wilcox could get a start.
INJURY UPDATES: C Cedric Paquette played his first game after missing six games with a lower-body injury. … D Braydon Coburn left after skating just one shift in the third period. Cooper said he would be evaluated today. … C Brian Boyle missed his second game with a lower body injury.
SUSTR SCRATCHED: D Andrej Sustr was a healthy scratch, missing his first game of the season. "Trying to put the best lineup possible (on the ice) to win a hockey game," Cooper said.
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nuts and bolts: D Matt Taormina and F Yanni Gourde were named to the AHL All-Star Game. Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx was named to the coaching staff.