Goalie nods: Bolts go back to struggling Vasilevskiy

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Ben Bishop‘s return from a nine-game absence last night went pretty well — he made 24 saves in a win over the Sabres — but the schedule isn’t doing him or the Lightning any favors.

Tonight, the Bolts play the second of a back-to-back as they host the Blue Jackets at Amalie. Even though Bishop looked good last night and the temptation to go back to him must be there, head coach Jon Cooper will instead play it safe, and start struggling youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy had a rough go filling in for Bishop as the club’s No. 1. He admitted as much to the Tampa Bay Times prior to Thursday’s game against Buffalo.

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“I think even the best goalies in the world, they need some days off from games for sure,” Vasilevskiy said Thursday. “Because it’s tough to handle many games in a row.”

Vasilevskiy admits his numbers were “rough” in his first stint as a No. 1, going 3-5 1 with a 3.78 goals against average and an .876 save percentage. But a lot of that had to do with how the team was playing in front of him, so it didn’t zap his confidence. And Vasilevskiy believes this experience will benefit him the next time he’s in the starting role.

Vasilevskiy thinks his biggest lessons were learning how to take more rest between games – doing treatment instead of extra workouts – and turning the page mentally.

For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Good matchup at MSG, where Frederik Andersen and the Leafs visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

— Team Canada World Cup teammates clash in Washington, as Braden Holtby and the Caps host Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks.

— No surprises in Carolina, where Cam Ward will make yet another start, his 18th in a row. No word yet on a Buffalo starter, but Anders Nilsson did play in the aforementioned loss to Tampa Bay last night.

Thomas Greiss will make his fifth straight start for the Isles, who are in Florida. Roberto Luongo, coming off a 29-save win over the Isles on Wednesday, is in for the Panthers.

Chad Johnson, fresh off a 27-save win over the Sharks on Wednesday, goes back in for the Flames. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Devils, though Cory Schneider did play in Thursday’s OT loss in Edmonton.

— After getting last game off, Mike Smith returns to the starting role for Arizona. The Jets have yet to announce a starter. Both Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck saw action in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to Montreal, with the former coming on in relief of the latter.

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