Don’t expect Ben Bishop to be back in the Tampa Bay Lightning net for Game 4 Friday night. Head coach Jon Cooper labeled the netminder as “doubtful” and added he doesn’t expect him to play with the team facing the prospect of a 3-1 series deficit.
“[Andrei] Vasilevskiy has been outstanding for us. Unfortunately, we’re the ones that kind of let him down,” Cooper said Thursday. “But I don’t think — first of all, it’s not a question for right now anyway because there is no — Bish isn’t available to really come back right now. That’s what makes it kind of a moot point, but I guess in the end, when you’ve got two outstanding goaltenders, whatever decision you do go with is probably not going to matter.”
Cooper’s right. Vasilevskiy has been as good as he can since replacing Bishop early in Game 1. In three appearances, the 21-year-old Russian had stopped 107 of 115 shots faced. There are a number of reasons why the Lightning are down 2-1 in the series — lack of penalties drawn/power play success (0-for-2), turnovers, losing the possession battle, not stopping the HBK line — but goaltending isn’t one of them.
Someone who could help in some of those areas is Steven Stamkos, who skated in a regular jersey at practice on Thursday but is still in place where he may or may not return this postseason.
“There’s no — the thing with this situation, there’s no data out there to support whether, you know, obviously, coming back earlier than the initial prognosis is safe or not, if there’s elevated risks or not,” Stamkos said. “I mean, it’s such a unique situation and obviously not a common thing, that there’s really no clinical studies to suggest. So there’s risk management.
“You have to just, like I said, do your best to gather as many opinions, gather as much information as possible so you’re well educated on the risks if you do come back, realizing that it’s not worth the risk. So we haven’t reached that stage yet.”
There is currently no set deadline for a decision on whether or not Stamkos would return and no planned doctor’s appointments. The Lightning have been playing like getting their captain back would be a great surprise and bonus this postseason. They’ve dealt with injuries hitting their key players before and prevailed. The tests keep on coming.