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Bishop unlikely to play in Game 7, Stamkos status unchanged

With the Lightning's season on the line in Thursday's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, the natural inclination is to wonder if two of the team's biggest stars, captain Steven Stamkos and goalie Ben Bishop, might return for it.

But it certainly sounds likely that neither will be available for the must-win game against the Penguins.

Bishop (lower left leg) has continued to progress from an injury suffered in Game 1, but told the Tampa Bay Times it's "still not there yet," and he didn't want to jump right back in.

"Not a lot has changed," coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday before flying to Pittsburgh. "We'll get together tonight as a staff and see where everybody is, but as of now, I don't anticipate Ben being in."

Stamkos (blood clot) has continued to practice with the team, feeling like he could play, but is still awaiting a decision whether he can play while on blood thinners or on a different regimen. Cooper said today nothing has changed in Stamkos' status.

 

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Matt Murray to start for Penguins, Vasilevskiy for Lightning

Coach Mike Sullivan said going with Matt Murray gives the Penguins the best chance to win.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Coach Mike Sullivan said going with Matt Murray gives the Penguins the best chance to win.

With the Penguins season on the line, they are making another switch in net, rookie Matt Murray to start tonight in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.

The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury made his first playoff start in Game 5, losing 4-3 in overtime. Coach Mike Sullivan said going with Murray gives them the best chance to win.

"It's a tough situation," Sullivan said. "But it is what it is. We have to make the best decision and that's what we're trying to do."

Murray had gotten the Penguins this far, serving as the starter during this playoff run. Sullivan cited his past performance, as well as his "calming" influence.

"His performance speaks for itself," Sullivan said.

While the Penguins are certainly confident - star Evgeni Malkin guaranteeing Monday that they'd be  heading back to Pittsburgh for Thursday's Game 7 - the Lightning feels the same way. The Lightning learned from its experience in last year's Eastern Conference Final, when it failed to close out the series at  home in Game 6 after a Game 5 win in New York. …

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Penguins' Malkin guarantees victory in Game 6

Evgeni Malkin battles the Lightning's Matt Carle during Game 5.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Evgeni Malkin battles the Lightning's Matt Carle during Game 5.

The Lightning is going to have to go back to Pittsburgh.

At least, that's according to Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, who is confident his team can win Tuesday in Game 6 at Amalie Arena and force a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"I believe in my team. I believe in myself," Malkin said. "We're coming back to Pittsburgh (for Game 7) for sure."

The Lightning rallied to beat Pittsburgh 4-3 in overtime Sunday, overcoming a two-goal, second-period deficit. Nikita Kucherov, with two goals, forced overtime with three minutes left in regulation, Tyler Johnson scoring the winner 53 seconds into overtime.

The Lightning didn't have any issues with Malkin's statement, saying it's only natural.

"What's he supposed to say in that situation? 'We're done. We're just going down as a formality'?" coach Jon Cooper said. "Of course they're going to say they're going to win, and they should. They're a good team, a good, confident group, but we feel the same way. But, look, you've got to win four, and we're a little closer to four than they are, but you've still got to get four, and that's all our group is thinking about is let's just get that fourth one." …

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Fleury in for Penguins, still no Bishop or Stamkos

The Penguins have made a switch in goal, turning to veteran and Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Marc Andre Fleury for Game 5 tonight against the Lightning.

Fleury, who relieved Matt Murray in the third period of Game 4 in Tampa,  hasn't started a game since late March. But wing Chris Kunitz said Fleury might have been their best player this season, coach Mike Sullivan believing it gives his team the best chance to win. The best of seven series is tied 2-2.

"We're going to go out there and play our best for him," Kunitz said.

For the Lightning, there won't be a change in net, with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy set to make his fourth straight start. Starter Ben Bishop participated in today's optional skate, but mostly worked on the side with goalie coach Frantz Jean.

Bishop, who suffered a lower left leg injury in Game 1, doesn't feel ready to return, and while he's hopeful to be back in this series, he won't rush it. …

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Lightning without Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos for Game 4

Ben Bishop won't play tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, holding out hope there's a chance for Sunday's Game 5.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop won't play tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, holding out hope there's a chance for Sunday's Game 5.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop continued to make progress in his recovery from a left leg injury, participating in his second straight team skate.

But Bishop won't play tonight in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, holding out hope there's a chance for Sunday's Game 5.

"We'll see," Bishop said. "Take it day by day."

Bishop, who got hurt in Game 1, worked out on one half of the ice, trying different side to side and up and down movements. He also faced shots, but didn't appear to be moving as quickly or forcefully. "It's getting better," Bishop said of his range of motion. "(Friday) was better than (Thursday). Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his third straight start in net, having stopped 82 of 89 shots the past two.

"That's the last thing we have to worry about right now is the goaltending situation," captain Steven Stamkos said. "If it weren't for Vasy the last couple games, it could be a lot worse."

Speaking of Stamkos, he also will not play tonight. But Stamkos continued to participate in team skate, still hoping he can return in the playoffs, but understanding he might not be able to. …

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Steven Stamkos says a 'real possibility' he doesn't play

After two days without skating, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was back on the ice for Thursday's practice.

Stamkos (blood clot) is still in a"holding pattern," saying his status hasn't changed, admitting there's just a 5-percent chance he plays in Friday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

While no decision has been made, Stamkos, 26, says there's a "real possibility" he doesn't play at all in these playoffs. It just might not be worth the risk to his long-term health, his life.

"I don't think in this situation you're going to get 100-percent green light, or 100 percent red light," Stamkos said. "That's just the way it is. It's just something that hasn't been studied, hasn't been a lot of data on coming back from something like this. The more opinions you get, the more information you gather, sometimes the more confusing it gets. For me, I always try to gather as much information with my family, my agents, and friends, the team, and just put it all together. And obviously we don't have all the information right now, so I can't exactly say when that decision has to be made." …

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Lightning goalie Ben Bishop 'doubtful' for Game 4 (w video)

Ben Bishop remains "hopeful" he'll return during this series, admitting it's been tough to get hurt late in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop remains "hopeful" he'll return during this series, admitting it's been tough to get hurt late in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is getting closer to a potential return, participating in Thursday's practice at Amalie Arena.

"A step in the right direction," he said.

But coach Jon Cooper maintained that Bishop is "doubutful" for Friday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, so Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to make his third straight start. Bishop split drills with Kristers Gudlevskis at one side of the rink, facing shots and working on his movements. He admits it's been a slow process, especially when it comes to moving up and down.

"Still not there yet," he said. "But getting better."

Bishop remains "hopeful" he'll return during this series, admitting it's been tough to get hurt late in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. He missed a game in the Stanley Cup Final last year with a torn groin.

“There’s two ways to look at it," Bishop said. "It’s really bad luck but at the same time you’re in the conference finals of the Stanley cup so there are only eight goalies who can get hurt. So there’s two ways to look at it. It’s obviously unfortunate but at the same time we’re still playing hockey, so that’s the positive."

 

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Podcast: Talking Lightning-Penguins + return of Bishop/Stamkos

The Lightning got a split the first two games in Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Final.

But can it advance past the Penguins?

Times columnist Tom Jones and I break down the first two games of the series, and look ahead to what's in store. When will goalie Ben Bishop return? Has Steven Stamkos played his final game of the season? Can the Lightning win a series with Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal.

That, and more, in this podcast.

(Click below to listen)

 

 

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Ben Bishop on ice before skate, getting closer

While Ben Bishop won't play in tonight's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, coach Jon Cooper is hopeful the Vezina Trophy finalist will join the team for practice Thursday and come back in the series.

DIRK SHADD | Times

While Ben Bishop won't play in tonight's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, coach Jon Cooper is hopeful the Vezina Trophy finalist will join the team for practice Thursday and come back in the series.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop took another step closer to a return, working out on the ice in full gear before Wednesday's morning skate.

He worked on his movements, facing shots from goalie coach Frantz Jean.

While Bishop won't play in tonight's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, coach Jon Cooper is hopeful the Vezina Trophy finalist will join the team for practice Thursday and come back in the series.

"Ben skated today, and he will not be in the lineup tonight, but he's progressing," Cooper said. "After today's game, I think now we're teetering on whether he can be back. There's no guarantees in that. But he's been making gradual steps everyday and he was going up and down today in his pads."

Right wing Ryan Callahan, who missed Monday's Game 2 with the flu, was back on the ice for the optional morning skate. He said he's feeling better, and is good to go for tonight.  …

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Today! Live Lightning chat with Joe Smith, 1 p.m.

Joe Smith

Times files

Joe Smith

Want to know the latest on the status of Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos? How Ryan Callahan is feeling? How Anton Stralman looked in his return to the lineup? If the Lightning is on your mind, then you've come to the right place.

Times beat reporter Joe Smith will answer your questions during a live chat today, from 1-2 p.m. Click on this link to join the chat. We hope you'll join us.

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Jon Cooper 'optimistic' Ben Bishop plays in series

Ben Bishop would still likely need to be part of a team practice/skate before resuming game action.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop would still likely need to be part of a team practice/skate before resuming game action.

While it's uncertain when Lightning goalie Ben Bishop will return, coach Jon Cooper is "optimistic" it'll be during this Eastern Conference Final.

Bishop, who missed Game 2 Monday with a lower left leg injury suffered in Friday's Game 1, has yet to take part in a team practice since. And there's no skate scheduled today upon the Lightning's arrival back from Pittsburgh.

But Cooper said the schedule shouldn't impact the return of Bishop, who is considered day to day. Bishop would still likely need to be part of a team practice/skate before resuming game action, meaning Andrei Vasilevskiy is likely to start Wednesday's Game 3.

"I  think,  when you're playing every other day, it's tough  for  anybody  to come back," Cooper said. "That's where those three-day breaks are big  in  that  regard.  That's helped us out in a few of these series, just trying to help get guys back. But  ultimately,  whether it's one day, two days, three days, if he's ready to go, he's ready to go.  I don't think an extra day is going to help out.  But  he's  making  progress  every day.  So hopefully, we'll see him soon." …

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Hedman, Namestnikov get cameos again in Jimmy Fallon jokes

Vladislav Namestnikov was among the NHL players featured on The Tonight Show's 'NHL Superlatives' segment.

YouTube/The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Vladislav Namestnikov was among the NHL players featured on The Tonight Show's 'NHL Superlatives' segment.

One of the best parts of having NHL games shown on NBC's networks is the cross-promotion that has Jimmy Fallon doing the occasional "NHL Superlatives" segment, where he throws up head shots of NHL stars and then offers up what their high school yearbook superlatives would have been.

It's a funny bit, and we won't spoil the Lightning jokes before the link -- Victor Hedman and Vladislav Namestnikov made it for a show that aired last week.

Of course, if it seems familiar, Fallon's made Brad Pitt jokes about Hedman before -- during last year's Stanley Cup finals, his superlative called Hedman "the love child of Brad Pitt and Benicio del Toro." Valtteri Filppula, Andrej Sustr, and Brian Boyle also made it into that one. The Lightning amusingly fired back, tweeting out a pic of Fallon in a Rangers jersey and handed the superlative of "most likely to regret getting a 2015 Rangers Stanley Cup Champion tramp stamp." It picked up more than 4,000 retweets and 6,000 likes. …

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Anton Stralman nearing return, Stamkos' status hasn't changed

Watching Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman skate at Sunday's practice, you'd never tell he fractured his leg seven weeks ago.

And it appears like Stralman has a chance to return for Monday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins. Stralman began doing full team skates last week, saying he was progressing each day, including doing some contact.

"Stralman is looking good," Cooper said. "He's getting closer.  Now we're getting to the point where he is -- Stralman is definitely day-to-day now,  and that's great news because he is extremely important player on our team.  So  we'll  just -- it's kind of going to be all to Strals here now,
how  he's feeling.  I haven't talked to him since practice ended.  But it's been  encouraging to watch him play, and you're looking at him right now at practice, you wouldn't even think he was hurt.  He's not favoring anything, so it's a really good sign." …

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Ben Bishop not ruled out for Game 2 after 'scary situation' (w/video)

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop address reporters Sunday afternoon after the team practice at the Console Energy Center in Pittsburgh. X-rays were negative and the "MRI was okay," Bishop said. "Luckily it's not that bad."

[DIRK SHADD | Times]

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop address reporters Sunday afternoon after the team practice at the Console Energy Center in Pittsburgh. X-rays were negative and the "MRI was okay," Bishop said. "Luckily it's not that bad."

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop walked to the podium Sunday afternoon with no noticeable limp, no brace.

Coach Jon Cooper said the Vezina Trophy finalist isn't ruled out for Monday's Game 2 against the Penguins.

It's incredible considering how awful it looked Friday night, when Bishop had to be carted off the ice with a stretcher, feeling like a bone was sticking out of his left lower leg.

Video: Ben Bishop talks to reporters at Sunday's news conference

"It was just a scary experience," Bishop said. "I felt something I've never felt before, pain everywhere. Your mind starts racing, you start thinking the worst. I'm thinking my leg is broken, mind starts spinning. I was really scared. Defenitely one of the scarier things to happen to me.

"You're thinking your season is over, your summer is over, how long is it going to take you to get back. It's funny how much stuff you think about in a short period of time. Luckily it's not that bad.' …

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Ben Bishop considered 'day-to-day' with lower body injury

Ben Bishop was carried off on a stretcher in the first period of Game 1 after writhing in pain, grabbing his left knee.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ben Bishop was carried off on a stretcher in the first period of Game 1 after writhing in pain, grabbing his left knee.

The Lightning got some extremely encouraging news Saturday, with goalie Ben Bishop considered just "day-to-day" with a lower body injury, GM Steve Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times.

It's uncertain Bishop's availability for Monday's Game 2, but this news certainly could have been a lot worse. Bishop was carried off on a stretcher in the first period of Game 1 after writhing in pain, grabbing his left knee. Coach Jon Cooper didn't know Bishop's status.

"Everything has been really goood so far on Ben," Cooper said. "Much better news than the scene we saw what happened when he was carted off. As far as playing status, I have no answer.

Cooper said after the game all x-rays on Bishop were negative, and there was nothing wrong "structurally."

"We're hoping for the best," Cooper said.

And this is probably the best-case scenario for Tampa Bay, which is up 1-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final with the Penguins. If Bishop can't go, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy - who was impressive in a 25 save relief performance Friday - would get the nod.

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