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Bishop ready for big load as Poulin enters Lightning's backup goaltender race

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said the torn groin he suffered in the Stanley Cup final is well behind him.

"I'm good to go," he said.

Bishop better be. There's uncertainty surrounding the backup position, with unproven candidates Kevin Poulin and Kristers Gudlevskis battling to temporarily replace Andrei Vasilevskiy (vascular surgery), who will miss at least the first month of the season.

So Bishop might have to carry a larger load early in what he labels the toughest stretch of their schedule, opening with 11 of 16 on the road.

"I know with Vasy not being out there, there might be a chance you play all the games," Bishop said. "Nothing wrong with that for me."

Bishop is used to being a workhorse. His 150 regular-season and playoff games played since the 2013-14 season are the third-highest among NHL goalies, even after he missed the 2014 playoffs, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Chicago's Corey Crawford has played 154, Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers 153. Bishop's goal is to hit 60 starts and 30-plus wins, a feat he has completed in back-to-back seasons.

"If you can do that year-in, year-out, you'll be up there with some of the elite," Bishop said.

The Lightning will have to hope Bishop is up to the task again. Coach Jon Cooper points out there are only two back-to-backs in the first month and a half, with 12 days off mixed in between the first 12 games.

"It's probably a lighter schedule than we had in the playoffs and Ben played all of those," Cooper said. "And he did admirably well, wouldn't you say?"

Cooper calls Bishop a gamer. The former Vezina Trophy finalist started — and won — Game 3 of the Cup final in Chicago after suffering the groin injury in Game 2. He sat out Game 4 then played Games 5 and 6. Bishop played through a wrist injury in the second half of the 2013-14 season and missed the playoffs that spring with a dislocated elbow.

"When you play 90 games in a year, you're bound to get banged up," Bishop said. "Last year was 90 games, you know you're going to get nicked and dinged. I think I've stayed healthy for the most of it, and hope we can do the same with it."

With Vasilevskiy out and Gudlevskis coming off an upper-body injury, the Lightning on Sunday claimed Poulin off waivers from the Islanders. Poulin, 25, has more NHL experience (50 games) than Gudlevskis (three) and played 146 games in the AHL, where Cooper noticed him. Cooper called Poulin's addition a "no-brainer."

"We just have to see how this plays out," Cooper said. "I don't think you can sit there and say who is going to be the backup here, or who is going to be the third guy? You have to sit and look at it big picture, we've got one goaltender injured, another one coming off injury. We're one more injury away from having nobody back there. There's nothing wrong with having depth."

Poulin, with the Islanders since getting picked in the fifth round in 2008, was "relieved" to land with the Lightning, though he'll have just three preseason games including tonight in Johnstown against the Penguins (7:30, NBCSN), to make his case.

"I think they know what I'm capable of," Poulin said. "That's why they picked me up off waivers. I just want to go out and have fun. I know how to play my game and show them that I'm ready."

Bishop is ready, too, having learned when to dial it down in practice or sit out a morning skate. And, he notes, Cooper handles his schedule well.

"I don't think there's ever been a time where I wanted a break or anything," he said.

Bishop might not get many.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Center Cedric Paquette did not practice Monday but Cooper was encouraged that the gritty forward will only miss a couple of days after taking a shot off his left leg Saturday. X-rays on Sunday were negative. "I thought it was going to be worse, there's no question," Cooper said.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Mike Blunden, Philippe Paradis, Tye McGinn, Jeff Tambellini, Matt Taormina all cleared waivers and were reassigned to AHL Syracuse. … Jonathan Drouin continued to skate on a line with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. … The Penguins won't have C Sidney Crosby or RW Phil Kessel in the lineup tonight, but Evgeni Malkin will play.

Around the league

Expansion: Las Vegas and Quebec City are moving closer in their bids to land a franchise. A Bill Foley-led group (Las Vegas) and Montreal-based communications giant Quebecor (Quebec City) were invited to make presentations today to the league's Executive Committee, deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email. Later, the committee will report to the Board of Governors.

Senators: Defenseman Mark Fraser signed a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will carry an annual value of $800,000 in the NHL and $125,000 in the AHL.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tonight

Lightning vs. Penguins, 7:30, Johnstown, Pa.

TV/radio: NBCSN; 1250-AM

The workhorse

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop's total of 150 regular-season and playoff games since 2013-14 is the third-highest among NHL goalies, despite Bishop not playing in the 2014 playoffs due to a dislocated elbow.

1. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks, 155

2. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers, 153

3. Bishop, Lightning, 150

Bishop ready for big load as Poulin enters Lightning's backup goaltender race 09/28/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 12:22am]
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