Vasilevskiy gets start, Paquette game-time decision
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will start tonight against the Sabres, his third game in nine days since getting called up from AHL Syracuse.
Vasilevskiy, 21, has had his share of success against Buffalo - allowing two goals in three starts (all wins) - but coach Jon Cooper said he's starting more due to scheduling.
"I don't think Vasilevskiy's sample size is enough to sit here and say, 'Oh my God, he owns Buffalo,'" Cooper said. "It's all schedule based and we believe both goalies can win. It doesn't matter who we put in."
Vasilevskiy, who missed the first month of the season due to vascular surgery, has looked sharp in winning his first two starts. He was the best player on the ice for Tampa Bay in its 3-2 win over Buffalo Thursday.
Bishop, who started 12 of the first 14 games, has been good, too, with a 2.23 goals against average. He's deserved a better record, losing his last five starts despite allowing eight goals, while the Lightning has scored three combined goals for him. Only two goalies played more games the previous two seasons than Bishop's 150.
"Bish is our guy, we know that," Cooper said. "But I've said this many times before, that kid has played a lot of hockey. He's done a hell of a job for us, look at how well he's playing right now. It's phenomenal that he hasn't won in his last (five) starts, and he's got as sparkling statistics as he's ever had in his NHL career. Feeling for the kid."
More from morning skate: C Cedric Paquette was in morning skate, but is still questionable for tonight's game, will be a game-time decision, Cooper said. Anton Stralman skated and is expected to play. The Lightning could go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but if a defenseman is scratched, it will be Nikita Nesterov, Cooper said. Forward Mike Blunden was just leaving Syracuse Monday, heading home to Ottawa to get some winter clothes, when he got a phone call from assistant GM Julien BriseBois that he was getting brought up to the NHL. Blunden is here due to a precuation, and may not play tonight, but it still is gratifying to get back after undergoing season-ending MCL/ACL surgery in February. He didn't get cleared until training campp. "Just battling to work my way back and it feels good to get the call and be back up," Blunden said. Blunden said he signed with the Lightning this summer because of how much he liked the organization. He remembers sitting on his couch in February after surgery getting ready to watch the Lightning play in Dallas when he got a call from Cooper, who wished him well. "Class act," Blunden said. The Lightning is 3-0 against Buffalo this season, but knows it'lll be tough to beat the Sabres for the fourth time. "We're sittting here 3-0 against Buffalo and probably don't deserve to be," Cooper said. "We can't say we've beaten these guys three times, we can throw our sticks in the middle of the ice, it isn't going to be easy. A few of these periods they've dominated us more than any otherh team has dominated us this year."