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Lightning trades Ben Bishop to Kings

When goalie Ben Bishop missed Sunday's practice due to the flu, it sparked trade speculation around the hockey world.

"That set off a firestorm," agent Allain Roy said.

Bishop, 31, was indeed sick. But Bishop was also soon on the move, dealt to the Kings Sunday night for backup goalie Peter Budaj, defenseman prospect Erik Cernak and a seventh-round pick. Tampa Bay gets a conditional pick, up to a second rounder, depending on Bishop and the Kings' performance.

And so ends the era for Bishop, the best goalie in franchise history. GM Steve Yzerman said it was a difficult decision, with the timing influenced by salary cap issues this season and beyond. Tampa Bay retains 20-percent of Bishop's salary.

And Yzerman reiterated this is no way a sign they're giving up on making the playoffs. But it wouldn't be surprising to see more moves if the Lightning loses to Ottawa Monday. …

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Flu keeps Bishop out of practice, fuels trade rumors

G Ben Bishop missed Sunday’s practice, the latest victim to the flu bug that has made an appearance in Lightning dressing room.

F Jonathan Drouin missed Thursday’s game because of the flu.

With Wednesday’s trade deadline approaching the speculation on social media is that Bishop was held out of practice because of an impending trade. But GM Steve Yzerman, in a text to the Tampa Bay Times, and coach Jon Cooper said the goalie is under the weather.

That doesn’t mean Bishop, an unrestricted free agent after this season, won’t be moved by Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

Monday’s game against the visiting Senators is a big one, and not just because it will impact the Lightning’s playoff picture. It is the last game before the deadline, meaning it could be the last time this group skates together as a team.

A win and Yzerman could make a move that would add a player for a playoff push. A loss and Yzerman could make a move that sets up the Lightning for next season.

Brian Boyle, an unrestricted free agent whose name has popped up in trade rumors, said he believes in this team and would like to see it stay together for the remainder of the season.

  …

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Lightning acquire Fournier in minor trade

The Lightning made a minor trade Saturday, swapping minor leaguers when it acquired RW Stefan Fournier from Arizona for RW Jeremy Morin, who spent the season at Syracuse.

Fournier, 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, played in 29 games this season at AHL Tucson, scoring two goals and assisting on two others. Fournier, 24, has played in 139 AHL during his career.

 

Morin, who played in a combined 82 NHL games with the Black Hawks and Blue Jackets during parts of six seasons, signed a two-way contract last July with the Lightning. He played in 43 games this season for the Crunch.

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Drouin returns to practice Saturday

Jonathan Drouin returned to practice this morning as the Lightning had a double session of work.

The team worked on the power play and penalty kill during the first session.

The Lightning, which did not practice Friday, practices again Sunday in advance of Monday’s game against the visiting Senators.

The good news for the Lightning was the Senators and Panthers, two of the teams it is trying to catch in the standings, both lost Friday.

With 62 points, the Lightning is six points behind the Islanders for the second wild card spot and six points behind the Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

But the playoff picture will change somewhat before the Lightning play Monday with the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Sabres and Flyers in action today and the Bruins, Senators, Panthers and Sabres playing Sunday.

 

The Senators are at the Panthers on Sunday, meaning Monday’s game in Tampa Bay will be the Senators’ second in back-to-back days.

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Did the Lightning miss out on Kevin Shattenkirk?

TSN reports that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed a potential deal to the Lightning six weeks ago.

Getty Images

TSN reports that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed a potential deal to the Lightning six weeks ago.

The Lightning has been looking for a puck-moving, right-shot defenseman for a long time.

Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues have been scouting each other since last year's Jonathan Drouin sweepstakes. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Blues GM Doug Armstrong even watched Tampa Bay's game in L.A. together Jan. 17. They spoke again the next night in Anaheim.

So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the two clubs were linked in an interesting report Thursday night that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk nixed a potential deal to the Lightning six weeks ago. TSN's Bob McKenzie was first to report it, with Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford confirming that Shattenkirk turned down what would have been a seven-year, $42 million deal with Tampa Bay.

Shattenkirk, 28, a pending unrestricted free agent, doesn't have a no-trade clause. But Shattenkirk has leverage as if the Blues want to get anything of significance for him in return, he'd have to accept a long-term extension with another team. …

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Drouin a game-time decision, Vasilevskiy likely in net

Jonathan Drouin will be a game-time decision tonight, having missed Wednesday's practice.

AP photo

Jonathan Drouin will be a game-time decision tonight, having missed Wednesday's practice.

Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin has been battling the flu the past couple weeks, making what he's done on the ice all the more remarkable.

But coach Jon Cooper said Drouin will be a game-time decision tonight, having missed Wednesday's practice.

"We hope (he can play)," Cooper said.

With Drouin's status in doubt, forward Cory Conacher was recalled from AHL Syracuse for the second time in four days. Conacher skated this morning and is available. This is a big game for the Lightning, which is just four points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay has pointed in seven straight games, a season-high.

In net, it looks like Andrei Vasilevskiy will start. While Ben Bishop has won five straight starts, this is the Lightning's pattern to play Vasilevskiy so he doesn't go 10-11 days between games. Vasilevskiy last started Saturday in Dallas. This way, Bishop would start Monday against Atlantic Division rival Ottawa. And Vasilevskiy has played pretty well too, his 37-save performance in Minnesota before the bye a big reason why the Lightning pointed in that game. …

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Ryan Callahan out indefinitely after follow-up procedure

Ryan Callahan has played in just 18 games for the Lightning this season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ryan Callahan has played in just 18 games for the Lightning this season.

Ryan Callahan's season could be over.

The veteran Lightning wing had a follow-up surgical procedure on his right hip Tuesday in New York, with GM Steve Yzerman saying Callahan is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.

The good news is that doctors found out what had been causing discomfort in Callahan's hip since it was surgically-repaired in June. Yzerman said the labrum remains in tact, and it's more of a scar tissue issue.

So while this injury is season-threatening, it's not expected to be career-threatening. Callahan still has three more years left on his deal after this season. If Callahan returns this year will depend on how far the Lightning goes in the playoffs, if it makes it.

"All in all, it's encouraging," Yzerman said.

Callahan has played in just 18 games this season, his hip - which was surgically-repaired in June - continuing to give him issues. He's been out since early January, with the team hoping some strengthening and rehab would help.

"He just didn't feel right," Yzerman said.

Callahan had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Bryan Kelly this week and the exploratory procedure was done. …

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Lightning Strikes! podcast: Should Ben Bishop stay or go?

What should the Lightning do with goaltender Ben Bishop, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer?

DIRK SHADD | Times

What should the Lightning do with goaltender Ben Bishop, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer?

Should the Lightning trade - or keep - goaltender Ben BIshop at the NHL trade deadline? What's been the spark with the Triplets line? Times columnist Tom Jones and beat reporter Joe Smith discuss the Lightning's plans, the emergence of Nikita Kucherov and more in our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast.

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Should Lightning ride - or trade - Ben Bishop?

The Lightning has won four of its past six, with all four victories started by Ben Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.

AP photo

The Lightning has won four of its past six, with all four victories started by Ben Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.

Still want to trade Ben Bishop?

The Lightning goaltender is playing some of his best hockey of the season. And, depending on how you look at it, the timing couldn't be any better.

With Tampa Bay fightning for its playoff life, Bishop has won his last four starts, including Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory in Colorado. The Lightning has won four of its last six, with all four victories started by Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.

So it should come as no surprise that Bishop is starting Tuesday against the Oilers. Coach Jon Cooper said the team's improved defensive play and Bishop's resurgence go hand in hand.

"He's just in command of his game," Cooper said. "He looks intimidating when he's in there. He's making saves with ease. He's not giving up rebounds."

Said Bishop: "I feel like I'm getting some bounces now, not getting many fluky ones. Guys are playing well and it's kind of a snowball effect. Hopefully we can keep building."

When asked if he'd consider riding Bishop more, Cooper said both goalies have played well in the six-game point streak, and that will continue. …

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Steven Stamkos skating, 'progressing well'

Steven Stamkos is still on the 4-6 month timeline, but a return this season hasn't been ruled out.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos is still on the 4-6 month timeline, but a return this season hasn't been ruled out.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is back on the ice.

Stamkos, out since mid-November knee surgery, has been skating on his own, including before Tuesday's morning skate. Stamkos was in full gear Tuesday, working with assistant coach Brad Lauer. Stamkos did stickhandling, shooting, even taking some one-timers.

GM Steve Yzerman said Stamkos is still on the 4-6 month timeline, but a return this season hasn't been ruled out.

"He's progressing well," Yzerman said. "He's doing well, but can't give a return date yet."

A four month recovery would put Stamkos back in mid-March. Six months is mid-May. So that's still a wide range. But the fact Stamkos is skating, and doing hockey-specific drills, is encouraging. The Lightning is 16-18-7 since Stamkos got hurt.

Stamkos hasn't spoken to the media about his rehab since Nov. 17 surgery, he'll address the media when he rejoins a team skate. But Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, discussed with the Times what the process was like for him. …

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Does Lightning run impact trade deadline plans?

If the Lightning can move a contract like Valtteri Filppula's, pictured, or Jason Garrison's, that could free up space.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

If the Lightning can move a contract like Valtteri Filppula's, pictured, or Jason Garrison's, that could free up space.

The Lightning is rolling, picking up a point in six straight games, a season-high.

Tampa Bay entered Monday just five points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

And that certainly complicates things for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman heading into the Mar. 1 trade deadline. That holds especially true when it comes to what to do with pending unrestricted free agents like Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle.

"We're fighting to try to get one of the eight playoff spots," Yzerman said Monday. "This is a good thing, we're playing well, we're winning games. Does it make it a little bit more difficult as to what direction to go? I guess. It's not just 'buyers' and 'sellers.' You can be somewhere in the middle of that too.

"We're competing for a playoff spot so if I'm going to move people.. I'm not just giving people away here. If it makes sense, I'll do it. If it doesn't make sense, I'm not. It's not a firesale." …

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Will bye week impact red-hot Lightning goaltending?

You'd think of all players, goalies would be the most impacted by the bye week.

Five days without facing a shot can't be easy for a position so dependent on feel and split-second reaction.

But Lightning goalie Ben Bishop didn't seem fazed in Friday's first practice back.

"I felt like I never missed a beat," he said.

Tampa Bay better hope that holds up Saturday against the Stars at American Airlines Arena when Andrei Vasilevskiy starts in net. The biggest reason for the Lightning's recent run - having won three of its last four - has been its goaltending. Bishop has allowed three goals in his past three starts. Vasilevskiy made 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss in Minnesota.

"They've been our best players," coach Jon Cooper said.

But judging from how goaltenders have responded after the bye this season, picking up where you left off is easier said than done. Just ask the Panthers' James Reimer, who was pulled in his post-bye start after allowing three goals in 14 shots. Rangers' star Henrik Lundqvist had an awful .789 save percentage in his first three starts after the break. Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was at .878 for Arizona. …

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Jonathan Drouin a game-time decision with flu

The good news for the Lightning is that Tyler Johnson is expected back in the lineup tonight against the Stars.

The bad news? Wing Jonathan Drouin has a flu bug, and is a game-time decision. Cory Conacher was called up from AHL Syracuse and is in route in case Drouin can't go; or Tampa Bay can go with seven defensemen.

"I hope (Drouin) can play," coach Jon Cooper said. "But you  never know how things go."

Johnson, who missed the last two games before the five-day bye with a lower body injury, felt good after his second straight day on the ice. "He's good to go," Cooper said.

The Lightning (25-24-7) are facing a struggling Stars team that has lost six of their last seven. But the bye week hasn't been kind to teams, which are 3-9-2 in first game back. Those who had byes this month are 0-5-1 in the first game.

But Cooper doesn't seem concerned, liking the way the players have responded the past two days.

"I like the way the guys are snapping it around," Cooper said. …

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Vinny Lecavalier ready for 'special' Lightning alumni game

On Thursday, Vinny Lecavalier put on a Lightning jersey for the first time in four years.

But first, the former Lightning captain went hunting.

Yes, hunting.

Those are the spoils of being a retired player.

“Just nice to be outdoors,” he said. “Something different to do.”

Saturday will be different, too. Lecavalier, 36, will be back on the ice at Amalie Arena at 5 p.m. for the Lightning alumni game against former Bruins’ players at Amalie Arena. It’s part of the third annual Hockey Day in Tampa Bay, with other events including high school championships, sled hockey game and street hockey tournaments. All proceeds from event ($10 in advance, $15 at the door), proceed the Jason Ritchie Foundation and Lightning sled hockey.

But the main event will be the alumni, game, with Lecavalier joined by the likes of Dave Andreychuk, Ruslan Fedotenko and Chris Dingman. The Bruins are bringing Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. It’ll be just the third time Lecavalier has played since retiring at the end of last season. With more alumni staying in Tampa Bay, there should be more activities down the road. …

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Tyler Johnson could return Saturday

Tyler Johnson missed the last two games with a lower body injury, was a full participant in Friday's first practice.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tyler Johnson missed the last two games with a lower body injury, was a full participant in Friday's first practice.

One positive to come out of the Lightning's bye week is the potential return of center Tyler Johnson.

Johnson, who missed the last two games with a lower body injury, was a full participant in Friday's first practice after the five-day bye. Johnson was in a regular jersey, on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.

It's a good sign Johnson might be available for Saturday's game in Dallas. The team will decide after Saturday's morning skate.

"Had a good practice today, so we'll see it feels tomorrow," Johnson said.

Johnson got hurt Feb. 7 against the Kings. He tried to take part in Friday's morning skate in Minnesota, but left early. "Unfortunately I didn't feel ready to play," Johnson said. "Luckily the break came at a really good time, and we'll see how it goes tomorrow."

Teams have struggled coming out of the bye this season. Those who have had byes in February are 0-5-0 so far. Coach Jon Cooper hopes the Lightning can buck that streak, noting it's "urgency time" in its playoff hopes. …

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