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Lightning ready for longest break since preseason

Carolina Hurricanes' Joakim Nordstrom (42) tussles with Tampa Bay Lightning's Anton Stralman (6) during the second period. [AP photo]
Carolina Hurricanes' Joakim Nordstrom (42) tussles with Tampa Bay Lightning's Anton Stralman (6) during the second period. [AP photo]
Published Dec. 5, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. — Now for some R&R.

The Lightning, road weary and a bit beaten up, this week has its first extended stretch without a game since before the start of the season. Three days to rest, get healthy and press the reset button before Vancouver comes to town Thursday.

"Shocking," coach Jon Cooper said before Sunday's game at Carolina.

The break comes at a good time for injured players such as F Ryan Callahan (day-to-day, lower body) and D Jason Garrison (day-to-day, lower body), who were not in the lineup Sunday or Saturday against the Capitals. Callahan missed his fourth game Sunday.

"Hopefully Callahan will have turned a corner by (Thursday). Garrison will turn the corner by then," Cooper said. "For us it's mental rest. That's what we need. It's been so much, so fast."

The break ends a run in which the Lightning played 14 games in 25 days with no more than one day off between games. The stretch also included a pair of back-to-back games.

The Lightning also played its past six games in six cities. What's more, 16 of its first 27 games were away from Amalie Arena, making for what Cooper said was a tough first third of the season.

The early season road games come with an upside: The Lightning plays 15 of its final 24 regular season games at home.

"We hang around, come March and April we're at home quite a bit," Cooper said. "So that's why we have to fight through this right now and make sure when we do get to the last 20 or so games, we take care of business at home."

DROUIN OUT: F Jonathan Drouin did not play Sunday because of an undisclosed injury. Drouin did not play in the final six minutes of regulation and overtime of Saturday's shootout win against Washington. He did take the first shot during the shootout.

BACK-TO-BACK BISH: After stopping 34 of 35 shots in 65 minutes Saturday and snapping a personal four-game losing streak in the Lightning's 2-1 shootout victory against the visiting Capitals, Ben Bishop found himself back in net less than 24 hours later.

Cooper said it was matter of Bishop feeling good and going with a goalie who is "feeling it."

It was assumed Andrei Vasilevskiy would get the start because the Lightning was playing two games in two days and Sunday's game started at 5 p.m. Vasilevskiy has allowed nine goals in his past two starts and was pulled from his previous start, Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Blues, after allowing four games in less than 22 minutes.

Bishop, who allowed 12 goals in his previous three starts before turning in one of his best games of the season against the Capitals, started on back-to-back days for the first time this season.

"This is nothing unusual. Far from it," Cooper said. "For those of us who spent time in the American League, we've had our goalies play three (games) in three (days). You always (ask) the goalie first. Are you ready? How you feeling? Is your body feeling okay? (Bishop) was good to go."