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Andrei Vasilevskiy reassigned to Syracuse

The Lightning announced that it reassigned goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to Syracuse on Wednesday, a day after he made his third career start in a 4-3 win over the Penguins.

Vasilevskiy was 2-1 in his three games for the Lightning in place of the injured Ben Bishop. But Bishop is expected to return from a lower-body injury Saturday when the team hosts Carolina after the three-day Christmas break.

Vasilevskiy, 20, posted a 2.01 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in his first taste of the NHL. The 6-foot-7 Vasilevskiy set a club rookie record with 45 saves against the Islanders and stopped a Sidney Crosby breakaway on Tuesday night.

Coach Jon Cooper said after Tuesday’s game that he was impressed with Vasilevskiy’s performance in his debut stint.

“You talk about a kid that is a gamer,” Cooper said. “You come in and watch these guys file in before practice and before games. He’s the first guy there. He’s got a game face going three hours before the game. It is game on for him.”

Vasilevskiy said after the win over the Penguins that he’s gained confidence from his first three NHL games but that he has plenty to learn. …

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Ben Bishop and Jason Garrison out vs Pittsburgh Penguins

TAMPA – The Lightning will be without goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Jason Garrison tonight because of injuries.

Garrison didn’t participate in the team’s morning skate at Amalie Arena. Bishop wasn’t on the ice to begin with but later practiced, including taking extra reps.

“I said I would have been available,” Bishop said, “but I think if you look at the logic behind the whole thing, it makes a lot more sense to take the extra day off, which equals four days off and not push it…

“There’s just no sense with one game in a long season like this, and when you’ve got a kid that’s playing real well, too, that makes it a little bit easier to not feel pressured to come back like that.”

The kid, of course, is Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was the first goalie off the ice and is expected to start against the Penguins tonight. Bishop said he “certainly hopes” he’ll be ready to play Saturday when the team returns from its three-day Christmas break.

Coach Jon Cooper said there’s a “decent” chance Garrison returns Saturday.

Other quick hits: …

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Ben Bishop 'doubtful to questionable' to return versus Pittsburgh Penguins

BRANDON – Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is “doubtful to questionable” to return from a lower-body injury Tuesday night against the Penguins, coach Jon Cooper said Monday.

“He’s just getting back,” Cooper said. “He, even by his own accounts, is not 100 percent. If that’s going to leave a little bit of doubt, then we’ll have to see where he’s at tomorrow.”

Bishop practiced with the team at the Ice Sports Forum on Monday , a week after sustaining a lower-body injury at Pittsburgh. He said he felt fine Monday and could play tomorrow “if they’re willing” and if he can convince the coaching staff he’s ready.

But with a three-day break coming for Christmas and Andrei Vasilevskiy playing well in his call-up from Syracuse, Cooper suggested that Bishop could use the extra recovery time.

“There’s something  to be said, too, for playing the kid who’s hot…” Cooper said. “That can give Bish a little opportunity to become 100 percent, then you’re be crazy not to take advantage of that.”

Defenseman Jason Garrison didn’t practice Monday. Garrison said he’s feeling better, but Cooper said it’s “highly doubtful” he returns from a lower-body injury by Tuesday.

Other quick hits: …

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Ben Bishop "getting there;" Johnson could return tonight

Goalie Ben Bishop spent nearly an hour on the ice at Nassau Coliseum Saturday morning, facing live shots for the first time since suffering a lower body injury Monday.

And, after skating back-to-back days, Bishop is encouraged by the progress.

"It feels a lot better," he said. "It's getting there."

Bishop said the team will see how he reacts to Saturday's hard workout, with the plan to practice Monday. There's a chance Bishop could return Tuesday at home against the Penguins, but with a three-day holiday break right after, the team could give him extra time to rest.

"It's a good point that we've talked about," he said. "But if I'm ready, I'm playing.

NO SUNLIGHT: C Tyler Johnson, who missed Friday's game due to a stomach illness, skated Saturday morning and is a game-time decision for tonight's game against the Islanders.

Johnson said he first felt sick Wednesday morning, spending most of the next couple days in bed or the bathroom.

"I couldn't do anything whatsoever," he said. "It was pretty brutal. Really, really bad. Pretty much didn't see too much sunlight there."

But Johnson has seen his strength return, getting to eat solid foods. …

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Tyler Johnson questionable with stomach illness; Bishop still out

Center Tyler Johnson isn't skating at today's practice in New Jersey due to a stomach illness.

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Center Tyler Johnson isn't skating at today's practice in New Jersey due to a stomach illness.

The Lightning hasn't dealt with the mumps yet, but it appears a stomach virus may be going around.

After defenseman Radko Gudas missed the last three games due to a stomatch virus, center Tyler Johnson isn't skating at today's practice in New Jersey due to a stomach illness. Johnson is questionable for Friday's game against the Devils.

"He's got the 'G word,' The Gudas," coach Jon Cooper said.

Johnson, who ranks second on the team in points (33), has played in every game this year.

The good news for the Lightning was that LW Ondrej Palat, who has missed the past four games with a lower-body injury, was practicing and participating in line rushes with Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula. Palat said it was the best he's felt so far, hoping he will play Friday. Cooper said he's a "game-time decision." …

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Ben Bishop injury not considered long-term

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said his lower-body injury isn't serious and hopes to return by this weekend.

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Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said his lower-body injury isn't serious and hopes to return by this weekend.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said his lower-body injury isn't serious and hopes to return by this weekend.

Bishop said he "tweaked" something on a shot late in the first period of Monday's 4-2 loss to the Penguins. The Lightning went on the power play right after, so he decided to gut it out for the final 85 seconds, figuring he wouldn't see many shots.

But Penguins' Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway, his shot bouncing off the knob of Bishop's stick. Bishop knew he wouldn't be coming back in the game.

"I knew that it was something you don’t really want to mess with,” Bishop said. "It's really frustrating, especially the way things have been going and the way we're playing. It's just never fun whenever you have to leave the gamne. I take a lot of pride in playing a lot of minutes and a lot of games. I don't think there's many guys who have played more since last year. Hope we can get back sooner than later." …

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Andrei Vasilevskiy recalled by Lightning, could debut tonight

Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, has been playing very well for the Crunch, named AHL Player of the Week honors for allowing just one goal over three starts next week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, has been playing very well for the Crunch, named AHL Player of the Week honors for allowing just one goal over three starts next week.

Touted goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy has been recalled from AHL Syracuse today.

And it's possible Vasilevskiy, 20, could make his anticipated NHL debut tonight against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Coach Jon Cooper said it'll be a "game-time decision" if he'll start Vasilevskiy or veteran backup Evgeni Nabokov. While Nabokov brings experience, with a Lightning team that has lost four of five, starting Vasilevskiy could provide a spark. …

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Ben Bishop leaves Monday's game with lower body injury

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop left Monday's game with a lower-body injury and will not return.

Bishop made four saves on five first-period shots against the Penguins, but was replaced to start the second by veteran backup Evgeni Nabokov.

Coach Jon Cooper told NBCSN that it wasn't a coaches decision to pull Bishop and that they were trying to show some precaution.

Losing Bishop for any period of time would be a big blow to Tampa Bay. Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, entered Monday 16-6-2 with a 2.34 goals against average. He's been a workhorse, appearing in 26 games.

The Lightning has two back-to-backs this week, including Tuesday in Philadelphia. Depending on the severity of the injury, Tampa Bay could choose to call up prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was  just named AHL Player of the Week after allowing just one goal in three starts. Kristers Gudlevskis is another option.

 

 

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Lightning hoping to stay "mumps free"

Penguins star Sidney Crosby is the latest player to get diagnosed with mumps.

AP photo

Penguins star Sidney Crosby is the latest player to get diagnosed with mumps.

With Penguins star Sidney Crosby the latest player to get diagnosed with mumps, the Lightning are resigned to the fact that, at some point, the growing outbreak may hit their lockeroom.

There have been 14 known players who have got the mumps this season, spanning five teams (Ducks, Rangers, Devils, Penguins and Wild).

"It's kind of the sitting duck right now," captain Steven Stamkos said.  "It's pretty crazy to last this long and you see another case. It's just a matter of time. You just hope we can do a good job of trying to contain it. I think it's just hope and pray we don't get it."

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that primarily affects salivary glands. The Lightning have taken the proper precautions, with each player and staff member getting tested last month and, if needed, given the proper vacination and booster shot. But like in Crosby's case, the former NHL MVP got the booster last year before the Olympics and still got the mumps last week. …

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Jonathan Drouin won't be playing in World Juniors

As expected, Lightning rookie wing Jonathan Drouin won't be loaned to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior championships.

Drouin, 19, the game's top-rated prospect, has been making progress at the NHL level and the Lightning didn't want to disrupt that. But, more importantly, Drouin will get more opportunity to play, partly thanks to Ondrej Palat's lower-body injury, and Tampa Bay wants him to take full advantage, GM Steve Yzerman said.

Drouin, who competed in the past two World Junior tournaments, has said he'd rather stay in Tampa Bay. He entered Thursday with one goal and 10 assists in 20 games, though was a healthy scratch in several games.

The Lightning had until the Dec. 19 roster freeze to decide, as the tournament begins Dec. 26 in Toronto.

"He's just got to adjust to the NHL game and he's doing a good job," Yzerman said. "He's very smart, he's very enthusiastic, he's putting the effort in, it's just a matter of time and getting the opportunity. And he's going to get more opportunity it looks like."

"We're asking him to do more than just score and be good in all aspects of the game, and he's committed to it." …

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Evgeni Nabokov starting in net vs. Hurricanes

Evgeni Nabokov is 2-3-1 this season with a 3.15 goals against average.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Evgeni Nabokov is 2-3-1 this season with a 3.15 goals against average.

Veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov will start tonight for the Lightning against the Hurricanes.

For Nabokov, 39, it will be just his seventh start of the season, and the first time he's started a game that's not a back-to-back situation.

Nabokov last played Dec. 2 in Buffalo, when he made 21 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss. He's 2-3-1 with a 3.15 goals against average.

"We're trying to get him in the net once every 10 days, once every two weeks at the latest," associate coach Rick Bowness said. "So it's good timing. He had a good game last game, we want to keep him sharp. We're going on a five-game road trip with two back-to-backs, so it's important that we give him a game before we hit that stretch. And it's a good time now to give Bish a rest as well. So the timing is good."

Bishop has played well (16-5-2, 2.31), but ranks third in starts (23) and fourth in total ice time 1,425:40. The idea is to keep him fresh, with Bowness saying a goal is having a 60:22 split, give or take a few. Bishop had been eager to start this game, having lost back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Instead, he'll get a rest. …

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J.T. Brown back in lineup for Lightning; Drouin out

J. T. Brown. 24, has been a healthy scratch four of the last five games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

J. T. Brown. 24, has been a healthy scratch four of the last five games.

Wing J.T. Brown will return to the lineup tonight for the Lightning against the Capitals, with rookie wing Jonathan Drouin likely sitting out.

Brown. 24, has been a healthy scratch four of the last five games. But it's not been because of his play. Tampa Bay has 13 healthy forwards and he has just been the odd-man out.

Brown will likely replace Drouin on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow.

"I want to see everything he's been doing so far," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's energy, he's physical, he's in on the forecheck, he's a puck retriever, he blocks shots, he (penalty kills), he does a lot of stuff for us.

"It's just we've got 13 healthy forwards right now, guys aren't sitting out because they're playing poorly, guys are sitting out because we have too many guys. Regardless if we're winning or losing, our lineup changes are not because we lost the other night. It's because we've got to get other guys in. Got to keep them sharp." …

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Cooper wants Steven Stamkos to shoot more

With one more goal, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will reach 250 in his career, making him one of the youngest players in history to do so.

But while Stamkos, 24, is tied for second in the NHL with 16 goals, coach Jon Cooper would like him to be a little more "selfish" and shoot more. Cooper said Stamkos has become "more of a passer," especially since long-time linemate Marty St. Louis was traded in March, which has "rounded out his game."

"Still, I don't want to ever confuse Steven Stamkos with Adam Oates," Cooper said of one of the league's most prolific passers. "He's a shooter and we want him to continue to shoot the puck because not a lot of guys are as gifted putting the puck in the net, and that's what we want him doing." …

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Lightning pleased with Jonathan Drouin's progress

Jonathan Drouin has just one goal - scored in his third NHL game - and eight assists in 18 games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Drouin has just one goal - scored in his third NHL game - and eight assists in 18 games.

With center Vladislav Namestnikov sent back to AHL Syracuse Wednesday, it opens up some room for touted rookie wing Jonathan Drouin to get more playing time.

Drouin, 19, the game's top-rated prospect, has been a healthy scratch three times in the past few weeks, but said he's finding his way in the NHL.

"I think I'm more chasing the game," Drouin said. "I'm not just waiting for something to happen. I want to make it happen. That's probably the biggest difference."

Drouin has just one goal - scored in his third NHL game - and eight assists in 18 games. Tonight against the Sabres, Drouin will start out on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow. Coach Jon Cooper said Drouin is "getting dirty in the corners, he's starting to protect the puck." 

"You can tell Jonathan's learning, he's been much more responsible in the defensive end," Cooper said. "Morrow and Boyle, guys that spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, they grind it out. Jo is somebody we feel needs the puck, and if those guys can get it to him, Jo can make plays." …

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Vladislav Namestnikov reassigned to AHL Syracuse

With the Lightning having a glut at forward, center Vladislav Namestnikov was reassigned to AHL Syracuse Wednesday.

Namestnikov, 22, has played well for Tampa Bay, with three goals and four assists in 23 games. But with Tampa Bay having to scratch two healthy forwards each game, Namestnikov was the odd man out in two of the last three games.

With Namestnikov able to get sent down without clearing waivers, this gives him an opportunity to get more playing time with the Crunch at his natural center position. It also frees up some room for touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin, who has been scratched three times in the past few weeks and alternated with Namestnikov as the third-line left wing.

Namestnikov, the team's first-round pick in 2011, made the opening night roster after an impressive camp and became a key part of the penalty kill. He'll likely return at some point this season.

 

 

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