Down, but not out: Cooper confirms Bishop will play again this series

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CHICAGO — Ben Bishop will be back.

At what point, though, remains to be seen.

“Bishop’s going to play again this series,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said after Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 17 of 19 shots in a Game 4 loss to Chicago.”There’s no question.

“I just don’t know when.”

Cooper’s announcement was the latest in a saga that’s transfixed the Cup Final. After twice leaving Game 2 with a mystery ailment, then gutting it out in a 36-save victory in Game 3, Bishop was a late scratch from tonight’s tilt as the Lightning announced Vasilevskiy would get the start just minutes prior to puck drop.

What’s more, Bishop didn’t even dress on Wednesday. AHL call-up Kristers Gudlevskis, who’s been skating with Black Aces, suited up as Tampa’s No. 2 and watched Vasilevskiy become the sixth goalie in NHL history to make his playoff debut in the Stanley Cup Final — and impress Cooper in the process.

“If you tell me we’re going to come in and [Vasilevskiy’s] going to give up two goals, that’s a hell of a job in my book,” the Lightning head coach explained. “We’ve had a lot of success when we only give up two. That kid gave us every chance to win the hockey game. We only scored one.

“I thought he was great. He showed at the pinnacle of the sport that he can play. That’s a pretty big achievement for a 20-year-old.”

That Cooper was so high on Vasilevskiy — yet insisted Bishop will play again — should only further fuel the goalie drama moving forward. And make no mistake, there’s plenty more time for drama; these teams will now have two nights off before getting back at it for Game 5 on Saturday in Tampa Bay.

Which means another 48 hours of goaltender-related queries.