TAMPA — C Cedric Paquette immediately thought the worst.
What would happen to his left middle finger?
A center for the Panthers skated right over it on a faceoff in the first period of the Lightning's season opener on Saturday. Paquette left the game but would later return. He played with a big cut on his finger.
"Luckily for me, it wasn't as bad as (initially thought)," Paquette said.
He was not a full participant in practice Monday, but he was a full participant Wednesday after the team took Tuesday off. Before Thursday's game against the Canucks, Paquette said everything was fine and good to go.
"The stitches are stiff," he said. "I can't bend my fingers much."
He said he would have to see how the stitches affected him.
"Maybe less faceoffs," Paquette said. "Anything else is fine."
Many Lightning players and coaches are not thrilled to have to start the season with so few games, playing one game over the first eight days. But the slow start allowed an injured player such as Paquette not to miss any time and for F Tyler Johnson to return to the lineup after dealing with an upper-body injury.
F J.T. Miller started the season on the top line, playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
After the season opener, he found himself practicing, then playing on the fourth line Thursday.
"We're at Game 2," coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday. "Haven't played in what feels like forever. There's part of our game we liked from last game, and some we didn't. We're trying to find the best mix possible so we can score more than one shorthanded goal in a game. This is what we're doing now. We are just trying to find a chemistry a little bit."
When asked what he needs to do differently in the second game of the season, Miller said it's pretty simple: work harder and compete more. To him, that meant becoming more assertive and winning more battles.
"You have to go make stuff happen," Miller said. "I didn't do that at all in Game 1, so I am going to do that tonight."
Two centers on one line
In his return to action, Johnson played on the second line with Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point.
It provided the opportunity for two players who have made the All-Star Game as centers to play together.
"He is just one of those guys who makes it easy to play with him," Johnson said of playing with Point. "He plays his position, we have good communication, we talk a lot about what we expect and what we need from each other. I think that definitely translates and helps."
It helped Thursday. Their line scored in the first period against the Canucks when Point scored off the rebound.
Cooper’s still fan of opposing team
Cooper had the chance to, once again, coach against his hometown team.
A bit weird and surreal for the Prince George, British Columbia, native.
"I'm not gonna lie — I have been a Canucks fan my whole life," he said. "And that was back when televisions only had three channels. One of them was on the Canucks game."