RW Steve Downie returned to the lineup Friday night against the Hurricanes, giving the Lightning a much-needed boost.

Downie, a top-six forward who had missed nine games with knee and high-ankle problems on his right leg, said it was difficult being sidelined with his team struggling.

"I don't like sitting out, and I think everyone knows that," he said. "It's probably the toughest thing in hockey for me, to sit out and watch the team go play hard teams. It's painful. But hopefully it's the best for my ankle and come down the stretch I'll be ready to go."

Downie said the ankle, which had also bothered him earlier this season, feels stronger and "more powerful." He did a lot of work in the pool and on the treadmill and exercise bike, but he said there's no replacement for skating.