Tampa Bay Lightning

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

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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

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

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Update: It turns out that Ryan Callahan will, indeed, play in Game 1. Wow.

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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

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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 …

Stamkos doesn’t mind winging it

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Steven Stamkos can often be the center of attention with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It happens when you put up 51 and 60 goals in single seasons.

But, it appears sometimes a move to the wing can benefit Stamkos, which was the case late in the second round against Montreal, according to the Tampa Tribune.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s worked well the two games that we’ve done it. You know, sometimes it’s just a little change,” Stamkos told reporters on Friday.

“Some things aren’t going well, and you want to try some different combination playing on the wing. It’s definitely a little different. Your responsibility is maybe not as great as playing center. For me, I felt like my legs have been a little better. Got some pucks in space coming down the wing, being able to get some shots.

“But definitely in my opinion I’ve been able to get more quality chances and been able to use my speed down the wing a little more and get some more pucks on that. So it’s been a good change.”

Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson still leads all players in goals this post-season with eight.

After a slow start — three points in the first eight playoff games — Stamkos seems to have found his scoring touch, with three goals and seven points in the last five games.