Lightning backup goalie spot remains a mystery
With just one week until opening night, the Lightning's backup goalie situation is still a mystery.
And it might be even after the Oct. 8 season opener against the Flyers.
Goalies Kristers Gudlevskis and Kevin Poulin, claimed off waivers Sunday from the Islanders, are the two remaining in-house candidates. But with starter Ben Bishop playing half the game tonight and the full game Saturday, neither will get much more of an opportunity to audition much.
There's also the possibility that the backup goalie isn't in camp yet, with Tampa Bay having the option of seeing what else is available. Jonas Gustavsson, for example, has played well while on a PTO with Boston, but if he leaves without a contract, he could be available.
Coach Jon Cooper insists they're not worried about the uncertainty.
"I don't think you have to make that decision at this point," Cooper said. "There's so many different scenarios. I don't think we can sit here and say just because the goalie we keep is the guy that's going to back up Bish. Someone may go to the American League, play some games and come up. We may bring someone else up. There's so many different scenarios that could go on."
There's a couple issues at play here. Reading into Cooper's comments, the Lightning could keep Poulin, who is waiver-eligible, on the opening night roster and send Gudlevskis, who doesn't require waivers, to AHL Syracuse. The Lightning obviously picked up Poulin for a reason, the scouting staff liking his potential, so from an asset management point of view, putting him on the roster keeps another goalie in the system. Poulin gave up two goals in his debut Tuesday in Johnstown, but has 50 NHL games under his belt, more than Gudlevskis (three), who has struggled to find consistency as a pro.
Since Cooper said the Lightning is toying with carrying only seven defensemen, that would open up a spot if Tampa Bay wants to recall Gudlevskis to make a spot start for Bishop. Tampa Bay can also peruse the waiver wire next week, when final rosters have to be submitted Tuesday, to see if another goaltender has slipped through the cracks.
Tampa Bay wouldn't conceivably need a backup to play until Oct 12-13, when it has a back-to-back against Boston and Detroit.
"I guess we're not really worried about that," Cooper said. "One guy is going to get it over the other eventually. Who that is going to be we'll have to see in a few weeks."