Tampa Bay’s schedule isn’t making it easy for Ben Bishop to return from his lower-body injury before the end of the Eastern Conference Final, but Lightning coach Jon Cooper remains optimistic that it will happen.
“I think, when you’re playing every other day, it’s tough for anybody to come back,” Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s where those three-day breaks are big in that regard. That’s helped us out in a few of these series, just trying to help get guys back. But ultimately, whether it’s one day, two days, three days, if he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been strong in relief of Bishop so far and while this hasn’t been an ideal season for the 21-year-old netminder, he’s always had high-end potential. It could be that Vasilevskiy will continue to rise to the challenge and keep the Lightning in games against the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins.
At the same time, Bishop is the goalie Tampa Bay wants between the pipes right now. He was a big part of the Lightning’s regular season success and played an even larger role in Tampa Bay making quick work of the Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders in the playoffs. As good as Vasilevskiy was in the first two games of the conference final, Bishop would be the safer goaltender to start if he were healthy.
In the meantime, Bishop hasn’t participated in a practice yet, so Vasilevskiy will probably start again in Game 3 tonight.