No Steven Stamkos, Ben Bishop for Game 7
With the Lightning's season on the line in tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, it needs all the help it can get.
"You want to be part of it," captain Steven Stamkos said.
But Stamkos (blood clot) and goalie Ben Bishop (lower left leg) aren't expected to be available for tonight's game at Consol Energy Center. Stamkos, sidelined since April 4 surgery to repair a blood clot, said his status hasn't changed. He would need to get off blood thinners, or be on a different regimen, to play.
"There's nothing to update," Stamkos said. "That's all I can say."
Bishop, out since getting hurt in Game 1, was one of the last Lightning players on the ice at today's optional skate. While Bishop continues to make progress, he's still not ready, making tonight's decision easy.
"It wasn't really much of a thought," Bishop said. "I'm not there yet. You want to be out there, but it's not that close yet, but it's not that close yet to have to debate."
Bishop is still targeting the Cup Final, if the team advances, to return.
"In four or five more days, we'll see," he said. "We'll kind of be in that maybe you can play, maybe you can't."
Bishop, who has two Game 7 shutouts, spoke with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will make his sixth straight start, first in a Game 7.
"I told him, 'Deep breaths, stay calm. There's going to be a lot of emotions. Worry about stopping the puck. Don't make the game bigger than it is.'"
More from this morning: It was an optional skate, though most of the team was there... Rookie defenseman Slater Koekkoek had the line of the day. While admitting this is the biggest game he's ever played in, he said his gameday routine won't change. "It's going to be like the first six games, I'm going to go home and eat something and take a little naperoonsky." The Lightning emphasized the importance of a much better start than Game 6, when it amassed just 11 shots in the first two periods. "It's the most exciting game of a lot of guys careers," Stamkos said. "Game 7 of a conference final to get another crack at Stanley Cup. We'll be ready. You can't be scared now." RW Mike Blunden rejoined the team after the birth of his child.