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Lightning goalie Ben Bishop leaves win over Red Wings with unknown injury

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) work to shut down a Detroit rush into the Tampa zone during the first period of Tuesday's (12/20/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) work to shut down a Detroit rush into the Tampa zone during the first period of Tuesday's (12/20/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Published Dec. 21, 2016

TAMPA — It's bad enough the Lightning is dealing with injuries to top players like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

It got even worse Tuesday as goalie Ben Bishop left a 4-1 victory over the Red Wings in the first period with a lower body injury and did not return.

It's unclear what the injury is, or how long Bishop will be out. Coach Jon Cooper said they'll know more today on the team's off day, when Bishop is evaluated.

"It's difficult," Cooper said. "Hopefully this is a short-term thing."

Any long-term injury would be a blow to a Lightning team struggling to fight its way back into a playoff spot. Backup Andrei Vasilevskiy is more than capable, and he stepped in nicely with 22 saves in the victory over the Red Wings that pulled Tampa Bay (16-14-3) within two points of third place in the Atlantic Division.

But for Bishop, 30, it's at least another bump in the road in what will likely be his final season in a Lightning uniform. The fact that Bishop is an unrestricted free agent this summer has made him a hot topic in trade speculation leading up to March's trade deadline.

"A big part of our club that went down," center Brian Boyle said. "When he comes out of the game, you feel for the guy, obviously he's in pain."

The play when Bishop got hurt looked relatively harmless. Bishop kicked his right pad out to make a save on a shot by Red Wings defenseman Nik Jensen with about eight minutes left in the first period. But Bishop was in immediate pain, lying face-first on the ice for a moment before slowly skating off.

On his way to the dressing room, Bishop embraced Vasilevskiy, who said no words were shared. None were needed.

"I've been in that situation before," Vasilevskiy said.

Vasilevskiy has relieved Bishop in back-to-back playoffs. He started one game during the 2015 Stanley Cup final when Bishop had a groin injury. Vasilevskiy played most of the seven-game Eastern Conference final last spring when Bishop suffered an ankle injury in Game 1.

Vasilevskiy has been impressive this season with a 2.41 goals-against average in 14 games. Asked if he feels ready to be a No. 1 if Bishop is out for an extended period, Vasilevskiy said, "That's what I'm here for."

Both goalie coach Frantz Jean and PR director Brian Breseman were options as the emergency third goalie Tuesday.

The Lightning could recall either Kristers Gudlevskis or prospect Adam Wilcox for Thursday's game to be Vasilevskiy's temporary backup if Bishop is not ready. Gudlevskis has NHL experience, while Wilcox has played better for the Crunch, his 2.09 goals-against average eighth in the AHL.

"Listen, let's not speculate on (Bishop) — he could be back (today)," Cooper said. "Who knows? But if not, you've got someone else back there (Vasilevskiy).

"As I said, you can throw a dart at either goalie to see who is going to play the game and we have complete confidence in them."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.