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Lightning's Ben Bishop might face former team

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop swears if he plays tonight against the Senators at the Tampa Bay Times Forum he will treat it like any other game.

"I don't want to make it out to be a bigger deal than it is," he said. "It's a big game for our team, and that's the most important thing."

Fair enough, but as Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper pointed out, "You're human. You're going to think about playing against your former team."

Bishop, 26, was acquired Wednesday from Ottawa for rookie wing Cory Conacher and a fourth-round draft pick, so the chance to stick it to former teams is there on both sides.

But the game might be the first time Lightning fans get to see the 6-foot-7 Bishop — said to be the tallest goalie in NHL history — who in three games on the road is 1-2-0 with a shutout, a 2.02 goals-against average and .945 save percentage.

Of course, Bishop, who played his three games in four nights, might be the backup against the Senators.

Either way, here are some things you should know:

• Bishop's parents are not overly tall. His dad, Ben Bishop Jr. is 6 feet 1. Mom, Cindy, is at most 5-4, the son said. Cindy's brothers, though, are 6-5.

• Bishop's grandfather, the original Ben Bishop, was a pro tennis player in the mid 1970s with a top ranking of No. 281.

• Bishop grew up in St. Louis. When he was 4, the story goes, he was at a Blues game and said to his father, "I want to do that."

That brings us to Chaminade College Preparatory School, whose alumni also includes NHLers Paul Stastny and Chris Butler and where as a freshman Bishop dropped all other sports to concentrate on hockey.

"The way he handled the puck, he was almost like a sixth skater," said Matt Hrubes, Bishop's coach at Chaminade. "I used to yell at him in practice. I'd be coaching the defense at one end of the ice and he'd be flinging pucks at us in the air."

Bishop, who Hrubes said sprouted from 6-3 to 6-7 over one summer, was nicknamed Yao after 7-6 Yao Ming, who at the time played for the NBA's Houston Rockets.

"He hated it," Hrubes said.

"I'd don't even remember that," Bishop said, laughing.

But Hrubes insisted: "He did not want to be Yao Ming. He just wanted to be called Ben Bishop. I made sure the boys knew. This is their goaltender. It's a very mental position. Please do not upset Ben before the game."

Actually, one of Bishop's most noticeable traits is how calm he seems on and off the ice.

Some credit there goes to Grant Standbrook, his goaltenders coach at the University of Maine, where Bishop played from 2005-08 and helped the Black Bears to the Frozen Four in 2006 and '07.

"We talked a lot after every game," said Standbrook, retired with a home in Naples. "We discussed goals, we discussed situations. I did teach him how to meditate at one time. I don't know whether he remembers or not, and I don't know if that has anything to do with it. But more than anything it's just his own ability to handle situations and things under duress."

"A big, goofy guy," said Lightning wing Teddy Purcell said of Bishop, his teammate at Maine in 2006-07. "Always smiling."

College also was where Bishop perfected a way of passing in which he used his knee behind his stick "like a lever" to "rifle pucks high in the air."

It was so effective, Bishop said legendary Boston University coach Jack Parker unsuccessfully tried to get it declared illegal.

"He tried to say it was a kick shot," Bishop said. "But there's no kicking motion."

Bishop said the pass is difficult to use in the NHL because goalies behind the goal line are restricted to playing pucks in the trapezoid behind the net.

"And if you screw it up, it's right in the middle," Bishop said.

Even so, he said, "It'll come out every now and then."

Perhaps tonight against his former team.

MINOR MOVES: Defenseman Mark Barberio was called up from AHL Syracuse. Defenseman Matt Taormina was sent down. Barberio, 23, has eight goals, 40 points and is plus-7 in 70 games with the Crunch.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Lightning's Ben Bishop might face former team 04/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 12:05am]

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