Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Ben Bishop doesn't play but continues to improve

TAMPA— G Ben Bishop was encouraged by how he felt after Tuesday's morning skate.

"Best day so far," he said.

While Bishop (lower left leg) didn't play in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, he has set his sights on returning during the Stanley Cup final, if Tampa Bay advances.

"That's definitely the goal," he said. "You can kind of see the light there. It's just a matter of not trying to do too much too fast."

Bishop, hurt in Game 1, is still not ready as evidenced by some of his tentative movements while facing shots Tuesday. He has said he won't play until he's confident he can be effective.

"It's been a big improvement the last three days as far as how it feels," Bishop said. "It's still not quite there, I'm still favoring it a little bit. It's a process, you can't just jump right in. It's encouraging; at least the last three days you're really seeing the improvement, moving a little bit better."

GOALIE CAROUSEL: The Penguins, facing elimination Tuesday, turned back to 21-year-old rookie G Matt Murray. Veteran G Marc-Andre Fleury had started Game 5, his first start since March 31, and admitted he was rusty in a 4-3 overtime loss.

PK PROWESS: One key for Tampa Bay in this series has been the work of its penalty kill unit, which entered Tuesday having gone 13-for-16. The Penguins came into the series with the league's best playoff power play (27.5 percent).

"Once the power play gets clicking with confidence, they tend to get on a roll, but nobody gives the penalty kill credit for the exact same thing," coach Jon Cooper said. "If you look at some of the things in this series and the playoffs, a lot of really good things have happened after we've killed off a penalty. As I said before, penalties can give you a boost — or power plays can give you a boost, but so can a penalty kill. They've done an unreal job so far."

STEPPING UP: The Lightning has had success with a seven defensemen alignment this postseason, and part of that is the play of rookie D Slater Koekkoek. Koekkoek, 22, who played in nine regular-season games, appeared in his ninth playoff game Tuesday. In three of them he has logged at least 10 minutes, including late in games.

"I feel like I've earned it," Koekkoek said. "I think it's confidence, it's coach showing a little trust in me, that's what I'm hoping for."

Cooper said Koekkoek, a first-round pick in 2012, developed well in the American Hockey League.

"He always had that ability, but now he's got the confidence with that," Cooper said. "When you know you belong, it really helps you in this league, and I think with every minute he plays, he gets better and better and more confident. He's done a heck of a job for us."

NUTS AND BOLTS: C Steven Stamkos (blood clot) continued to skate with the team, saying Tuesday was the best he has felt yet, but his status hasn't changed and he didn't play in Game 6. … RW Mike Blunden is back in the Ottawa area for the birth of his child. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb was the Bolts Social captain Tuesday, several of his teammates watching from a suite.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatan...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Why Game 5 is crucial to the Lightning

Why Game 5 is crucial to the Lightning

BRANDON — Three things that popped into my head as the Lightning and Devils get ready to play Game 5 Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena.1. I'm going to do something that a hockey team in the playoffs would never do, not in a million years....
Updated: 11 hours ago
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Published: 04/19/18
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Published: 04/19/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Published: 04/19/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Published: 04/19/18
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Published: 04/18/18