Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Could Howard injury open a door to Olympics for Lightning's Bishop?

TAMPA — When Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop found out he was left off the U.S. Olympic team, he also was told he could be added later if injuries occurred.

Well, an injury occurred. Detroit's Jimmy Howard, named to the team with fellow goalies Jonathan Quick of the Kings and Ryan Miller of the Sabres, will be out at least a week with a sprained left knee, the same knee that previously sidelined him almost three weeks.

Bishop on Tuesday said he had not heard from USA Hockey and is not waiting by the phone, though with the Olympic tournament beginning Feb. 12 in Sochi, Russia, a decision on Howard will have to come soon.

"It'd be something special, obviously," Bishop said after practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "But it has nothing to do with me right now, so it's nothing for me to speculate about or even waste time thinking about."

Besides, he added, "We have a job to do here."

Bishop — 24-6-4 with a 1.93 goals-against average that entered Tuesday tied for third in the league and a .935 save percentage that was first — had a defining moment when he pushed to play Sunday at Carolina.

It was the second of back-to-back games, a prime spot to perhaps play backup Anders Lindback after Bishop allowed five goals in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Sharks.

"But he wanted back in and he made it known," coach Jon Cooper said of Bishop.

And Bishop responded with a career-most and franchise-record 48 saves in a 5-3 victory.

"The one thing about Ben is when he gets pushed against the wall, the fire really comes out of him," Cooper said. "He's one of those guys when the chips are down he elevates his game. You can't have enough of those guys."

To say Bishop is competitive is an understatement.

He said his mother used to tell him to "take it easy" while playing with siblings or the neighborhood kids back in St. Louis.

That fire has not abated.

"A switch turns on when you come to the rink for a game," Bishop said. "I'm extremely focused and, I guess, there's a little bit of anger in my game. I just hate losing, especially at this level when you have a good team in front of you and we know we can win every night. If you lose it makes you very angry."

Bishop is not one to hide his feelings either.

After Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders, he chided teammates, saying, "We had chances to put them away and we didn't. … We just need to put teams away."

After the Lightning allowed a franchise-most 51 shots against Carolina, he said, "We'll work on defending a little better."

Outspokenness in the media always risks rubbing teammates the wrong way. But defenseman Eric Brewer said, "He's telling the truth. He certainly earned the right to speak. He's played really well for us."

"He lets guys know when we're not playing well," defenseman Matt Carle said. "When you hear it from a guy like him who has essentially carried our team for most of the season, guys listen."

Will Bishop have a voice at the Olympics? It might depend on Howard's knee and who else is on USA Hockey's list of potential callups, such as New Jersey's Cory Schneider.

"I haven't heard anything, so who knows?" Bishop said. "It's not a concern of mine. It wasn't before. It won't be now."

Medical matters: Defenseman Victor Hedman, who missed one game with a bruised right leg, said he expects to play Thursday against the Senators. … Captain Marty St. Louis did not practice Tuesday because of an unspecified illness, the team said. He is not expected to miss any games.

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