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.