Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Ben Bishop won't rush to return to playoffs

PITTSBURGH — G Ben Bishop is still hopeful he can play in the Eastern Conference final.

"Absolutely," he said.

But Bishop insisted he won't rush his return — no matter the stakes — if his lower-left leg injury suffered in Game 1 against the Penguins is limiting him too much.

"It's tough being in the position (goalies are) in, kind of the last line of defense. You don't want to go out and play when you're not ready," Bishop said. "If you were maybe a forward, you'd be okay to go out and tough through it. But as the last line of defense, you don't want to go out there and do that to your teammates. You've got to wait until you're ready to go and feel like you can help the team win."

The issue with Bishop is feeling comfortable doing certain movements — up and down, side to side. He continued to work on them at Sunday's optional morning skate before Game 5. Bishop said he doesn't need to be 100 percent to play, just feel good enough to be effective.

"I don't want to go out and give up a goal because you can't play your position. It wouldn't be fair to the guys," he said. "You feel like you can get out there and help, but you want to make sure you're ready to be able to help. In most other positions in the sport, I think I'd be okay. But goaltender, it's a lot of unique movements. … It's tough to be a goaltender and have the injury I have."

Coach Jon Cooper said backup Andrei Vasilevskiy has been "unreal" in relief in the series, which was tied at two games each. And Cooper said he has to trust Bishop to tell him when he's good to go.

"When Ben is ready to come back, he'll probably push himself back before he's able to," Cooper said. "And that's just the way he is."

STAMKOS WATCH: C Steven Stamkos (blood clot) participated in Sunday's skate but didn't play in Game 5 and seemed unlikely to play in Tuesday's Game 6. The Lightning captain said there was no change in his status and he didn't believe there would be updates in the next few days. "I don't see any likely scenario. No," he said.

DALEY OUT: The Pens were dealt a big blow with D Trevor Daley out for the rest of the postseason with a broken left ankle, suffered on a RW Ryan Callahan hit in Game 4. "He's a tough guy to replace," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's really made our team a better team."

NOT YET: D Anton Stralman, who played his fourth game since returning from a seven-week absence due to a broken left leg, said he's not back to where he was before the injury. "I think every game gets a little easier out there and a little more comfortable timing-wise and everything else," he said. "But I don't think I'm where I want to be yet. It's going to take a little time."

NUTS AND BOLTS: C Tyler Johnson, after what was likely a painful trip to the dentist, played in Game 5 with a half-visor, not the full cage/shield he played with in Game 4 after taking a puck near the mouth during warmups. … D Slater Koekkoek was in the lineup, with the Lightning going with seven defensemen again. … The Lightning was scheduled to arrive in Tampa around 1:30 p.m. today at the jet center.

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