RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a glove save during an NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on November1, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cooper: Bolts’ starting job ‘hasn’t been given’ to Bishop

As far as the eyeball test goes, Ben Bishop is the clear-cut No. 1 goalie in Tampa at the moment.

Just don’t go telling his head coach that.

Jon Cooper, perhaps out of fear of Bishop becoming complacent, says Bishop is still “earning” the starting gig in Tampa — even though the 6-foot-7 ‘tender has played in 11 of the last 14 games and is one of the NHL’s top goalies from the early part of the season.

“He has the job, but he’s earning the job,” Cooper told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “It hasn’t been given to him. Ben Bishop has holes, but I think he’s raised his competition level from last year to this year.

“He understands what we expect of him.”

Coming into this season, Cooper was adamant about not showing his cards on which goalie — Bishop or Anders Lindback — would be his No. 1.

He spoke of having two starting netminders and, on opening night, gave Lindback the start in a 3-1 loss to Boston. It was all in an effort to send Bishop the message that the No. 1 gig was to be earned, not handed to him.

“I think he may have thought that coming in this year,” Cooper said. “He didn’t start opening night. I think we’ve thrown challenges there … like when he was pulled (in a 5-0 blowout to Boston). Or not getting the start opening night.

“He seized it by having an exceptional game the next night.”

That “exceptional” game was a 37-save stunner in a 3-2 shootout victory over the defending Cup champs Chicago. Since then it’s pretty much been Bishop’s net full time, and he’s responded by going 9-2-0 with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage.

That said, it’s the first part of that statistical resume that Cooper really cares about.

“Quite frankly, goals against and save percentage are looked at by everybody as the key,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I only look at wins. It’s ‘Did he win the game?’

“That’s the only (stat) that matters to me.”

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.