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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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Evgeni Nabokov gets rare start tonight, adjusting to backup role

Evgeni Nabokov, who will start tonight against the Sabres in Buffalo, is 2-3 with a 3.71 goals against average in five games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Evgeni Nabokov, who will start tonight against the Sabres in Buffalo, is 2-3 with a 3.71 goals against average in five games.

When veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov signed with the Lightning last summer, he knew what he was getting into, with Ben Bishop the entrenched starter.

But for Nabokov, 39, it hasn't been easy to adjust to being in the backup role for the first time in his career. Nabokov, who will start tonight against the Sabres in Buffalo, is 2-3 with a 3.71 goals against average in five games.

"It's too early to start judging," Nabokov said. "I'm still kind of shuffling around and seeing what's going to work..

"I'm getting there."

Nabokov hasn't played less than 40 games since getting into just 19 as a rookie in 1999. This year, he's on pace for around 20, especially with Bishop playing so well.  Nabokov says he's practiced much more than he had in the past, working on stationary drills, but it's "nothing like a game." For him, the start to each game is so important, allowing him to settle in and get into a rhythm.

"Whatever the game gives you, you have to be ready as a goalie," he said. "Believe it or not, the hardest part is to prepare for the game. Then you don't play for eight, nine days, so you start to forget the preparation, routine. Those types of things are a little bit different." …

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Tony DeAngelo, Adam Erne invited to USA World Juniors camp

Two Lightning prospects - defenseman Tony DeAngelo and forward Adam Erne - have been invited to Team USA's evaluation camp for the World Junior championship, which will be held later this month.

DeAngelo, the Lightning's first-round pick in 2014, has seven goals and 20 assists for the Sarnia Sting this season. Considering DeAngelo wasn't invited to the summer evaluation camp, this could be a positive development, though he's a wild card to make the final roster. Team USA has to cut down from 30 to 23 by Christmas Day.

Erne, the second round pick in 2013, played in the WJC last year, so his selection is no surprise. He'll likely play a big role for Team USA in this tournament, which will be held in Toronto and Montreal. Erne is having a great season so far for the Quebec Remparts, racking up 18 goals and 21 assists in just 23 games.

Fourth-round pick Brayden Point was listed Monday on the evaluation camp roster for Team Canada. Whether touted prospect Jonathan Drouin joins Canada remains to be seen. Drouin, who played in the WJC in 2013 and 2014, is eligible again, but has said he'd prefer to stay in the NHL than participate in the tournament for a third straight year. …

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Ryan Callahan named NHL's second star; Marty St. Louis honored tonight

Ryan Callahan was named the NHL's second star for last week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ryan Callahan was named the NHL's second star for last week.

For all the shuffling that has gone on with Steven Stamkos' line this season, there has been one constant.

As long as wing Ryan Callahan has been healthy, he's always played on the captain's right side.

The duo has formed strong chemistry - both on and off the ice - and the results have shown. Callahan entered Monday with 10 goals and 11 assists in his first 19 games. On Monday, Callahan was named the NHL's second star for last week.

"Stammer is one of the best players in the world, the way he skates, he can see the ice, shoot the puck," Callahan said. "For me, I'm trying to get there hard on the forecheck and get in front of the net, that's always been my game, and that doesn't change anything for me playing with him. Right now, it's working."

Coach Jon Cooper said the line of Callahan, Stamkos and Alex Killorn, another power forward who drives the net, has some "mojo" going. Stamkos said Callahan "earns everything he gets," willing to sacrifice his body in front of the net and in the dirty areas. …

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Jonathan Drouin would rather stay with Lightning than play in World Junior

Team Canada will announce its roster for its World Junior camp on Monday.

Whether touted Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin is on it or not, he said he'd prefer to continue playing in the NHL rather than participate in the tournament, which is from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Toronto and Montreal. The camp is from Dec. 7-9, with exhibitions starting Dec. 19.

"To be honest, I'd rather stay here," Drouin said Saturday. "It's one month you're away from the team and a lot of stuff is going to happen. I'd rather be here than play for World Juniors."

Drouin, 19, the game's top-rated prospect, played for Canada at the world juniors in 2013 and 2014, with the team finishing fourth both years. Drouin enjoyed his experiences, took pride in playing for his country. But Drouin is still trying to find his way in his first season in the NHL, playing lower minutes and getting healthy scratched twice in the past couple weeks. He has one goal and eight assists in 16 games.

Drouin said he hasn't spoken with the Lightning brass on whether they'd prefer he stay or not. Would Drouin turn Canada down if picked?

“If it comes up and they really wanted me to go,” Drouin said, “it’s hard to say no.”

 

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'Pretty good chance' Victor Hedman returns to Lightning tonight

TAMPA – Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is available to play tonight against Ottawa, and coach Jon Cooper says there’s a “pretty good chance” one of the team’s top defensemen is in the lineup tonight.

“I’m preparing myself for the game tonight, obviously,” Hedman said after today’s optional morning skate at Amalie Arena. “But (Cooper’s) got the last word.”

Hedman has missed the last 18 games with a fractured right finger. Cooper said Hedman clearly took his game to another level in the first five games, and Hedman ranked among the league’s leaders in points before he sustained the injury blocking a shot against Vancouver.

Cooper said it’s hard to gauge how players will perform in their first game back from an injury.

“These are always tough games to come back, especially playing at that position,” Cooper said. “But he’s a fine-tuned machine.”

Hedman said his conditioning shouldn’t be a concern, because he’s been skating hard for the last three or four weeks.

“That’s not going to be the issue when I start playing in the game again,” Hedman said. “It’s just getting into game action that I’m very excited about and looking forward to.”

Two other quick hits: …

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