James O'Brien

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No Brian Boyle for Lightning in Game 1

The Tampa Bay Lightning may have Ryan Callahan in the lineup, but that’s not the only surprise heading into Game 1 against the New York Rangers. Big center Brian Boyle won’t be able to play because of an undisclosed injury.

The defensive forward is considered day-to-day and will miss this first opportunity to face his former team in the conference finals.

There was some thought that perhaps he was missing Game 1 because his wife was giving birth:

https://twitter.com/AGrossRecord/status/599614202106503168

It sounds like it’s an injury-related absence, however. Either way, he’s not in the mix on Saturday. Here’s what the warm-ups looked like:

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Rangers, Game 1 of Eastern Conference Final

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers
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This is the first time the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers will face off in a playoff series, but it doesn’t really feel like it.

The reasoning is simple: there are so many players facing their former teammates in this conference final squabble.

Martin St. Louis (pictured) versus his former team is the obvious headliner, although Ryan Callahan may steal his thunder if he managed to play this afternoon. Beyond that, Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle were useful members of last year’s Stanley Cup Finalist Rangers squad while Dan Boyle won a championship with the Bolts many moons ago.

“It’s a little bit of made-for-TV,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told the Bergen Record. “How often do two captains get traded for each other? Guys that have been big parts of a team and move on to free agency. In part, not because they didn’t want to be there but, in the salary cap era, this is what happens.”

Speaking of made-for-TV, you can watch Game 1 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final on NBC and also stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

St. Louis regains top-line spot with Rangers (Update: Nope)

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four
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As interesting a story as Martin St. Louis facing his former team the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs for the first time may be, it won’t be as intriguing if the veteran winger is buried on the third or fourth line.

The 39-year-old found himself off the New York Rangers’ first line for a small chunk of Game 7’s overtime win against the Washington Capitals, but the Bergen Record reports that he’s back with Derick Brassard and Rick Nash.

For now, at least.

St. Louis only has four points in 12 playoff contests so far, a significant slump for a player with 87 points in 100 career postseason games. Still, he believes he’s had some strong moments, especially in the first few games against the Capitals.

“I thought I played some good hockey early on in that series but didn’t get rewarded,” St. Louis said. “Of course, coaches make decisions at key times in the game for whatever reason and I’ve never liked being left on the bench at certain times. But that’s reality. If I liked it, I don’t think I would be here today.”

Between the third period and overtime of Game 7, St. Louis only received about four of his 15 minutes of ice time, as J.T. Miller took his first-line spot. It sounds like St. Louis will get a chance to regain his standing on the top line, yet it’s a situation to watch.

It could be that much more interesting if St. Louis does get demoted, as the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard discusses:

The question if Vigneault reshuffles his lines is where else St. Louis would fit. Dominic Moore’s bump into the top nine with Hagelin and Hayes has helped the forecheck immensely. Stepan’s line with Kreider and Jesper Fast had 13 points against the Caps. St. Louis is not a fourth-line player. It might seem safer to add an offensive element to the fourth line against Tampa than it would have been against Washington, but don’t let this matchup fool you. The Rangers want to make use of their speed, sure, but they don’t want to turn this into a track meet and give the Lightning turnovers in the neutral zone.

Update: St. Louis did not begin the game on the first line.

More on Marty

He won’t be sentimental facing the Bolts

Martin St. Louis wants to retire as a Ranger

‘Tough kid’ – Callahan plays in Game 1 (Update)

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four
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Update: It turns out that Ryan Callahan will, indeed, play in Game 1. Wow.

***

It’s impressive enough that Callahan is a game-time decision for Game 1 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. As it turns out, it sounds like he’s more likely to play than not.

Callahan will at least warm up heading into this emotional series against the New York Rangers less than a week removed from undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper referred to Callahan as a “tough kid” and indicated that he expects the former Rangers captain to play.

This feels unprecedented – remember a similar situation sidelining Peter Forsberg for a playoff run? – but HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reminds us of Jonathan Ericsson’s courage:

The 30-year-old went under the knife on May 11. He missed the Lightning’s Game 6 win, yet he returned to practice less than 72 hours after the procedure. Cooper hinted at Callahan’s possible availability by referring to it coming down to “pain tolerance” and viewing him as day-to-day.

Of course, with all this optimism, Callahan (or Cooper) may pull the plug after warm-ups. It’s one thing to be tough enough to try to play, but what if he’s so limited that he ends up being a liability?

Either way, it’s a remarkable story, and another example to file under “hockey players are tough” (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Bishop lauds Lundqvist as ‘the benchmark’ for goalies

Ben Bishop, J.T. Brown
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Lucky or not, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop outperformed likely Vezina (and perhaps Hart?) winner Carey Price in the second round. Now he’ll gaze across the ice at maybe the one bigger name a team could throw out there: Henrik Lundqvist.

Bishop was nothing but effusive about the star Swede, as the Tampa Tribune’s Joe Smith reports.

“I kind of look at him as the benchmark,” Bishop said. “He’s someone who has set the bar.”

Despite being 28, this is Bishop’s first playoff run. He obviously hasn’t had much time to test himself against that benchmark just yet.

He has, however, put up pretty jaw-dropping numbers against the New York Rangers (including when Lundqvist’s been in net). Bishop’s undefeated in those games with fantastic individual stats:

Impressive. As Lightning head coach Jon Cooper points out, Price and Lundqvist have already stacked up some serious resumes, while Bishop is starting to “write” his in 2015.

” … So for him to not get his due, I think he’s slowly going to get his due, and he’s writing it right before our eyes,” Cooper said. “And it’s awesome to watch a kid kind of carve out his niche in the greatest league in the world, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

The big goalie won’t have much luck slipping under the radar if Bishop and the Lightning best Lundqvist and the Rangers, especially since that means a Stanley Cup Final trip and all …