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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Lightning goalie Ben Bishop spent 15 minutes on the ice Saturday during Tampa Bay’s morning skate for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning haven’t decided whether the injured 53-game winner will play against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Although Bishop said “there’s progress being made” on the undisclosed injury that kept him out of Game 4, the goalie and Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper both said they’ll determine later whether Bishop can start.
Rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy will start his second straight game if Bishop can’t go.
“When you get this far, you don’t want to hurt the team at all,” Bishop said. “It’s been a long season. You got this far, and you don’t want to be holding back the team, I guess to say. It’s an extremely tough decision to make.”
Bishop faced shots for about 10 minutes at Amalie Arena, appearing to test his mobility and post-to-post movement. He hadn’t been on home ice since he left Game 2 twice in the final minutes of the Lightning’s 4-3 victory.
Bishop won Game 3 in Chicago despite appearing to be hurt. Vasilevskiy played well in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday, with the Blackhawks evening the series at two games apiece.
“I’m hoping,” Cooper said when asked if Bishop would be available for Game 5. “I hope I have a decision to make between him and Andrei. That would be great.”
Cooper then abruptly left his morning press briefing after one question.
Earlier in the week, Cooper declared that Bishop would play again in this series, but didn’t know when that would happen. The Final has only two or three games remaining over the next five days, depending on the outcome.
In his first career trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bishop had started Tampa Bay’s first 23 games until Game 4, making 27 consecutive starts overall since March 31. Kristers Gudlevskis backed up Vasilevskiy, while Bishop had a miserable night in street clothes.
“It’s terrible,” Bishop said. “I was more nervous for that game I’m not playing than for any game. I thought Vasi came in and did a great job. He did everything he needed to do. I thought he played a great game. We had a chance to win that game. It’s a tough spot to put a kid in like that. You can see why he’s going to be as good as he is.”
The 20-year-old Vasilevskiy was a first-round pick in 2012, and he played 16 regular-season games this year after joining the Lightning in December. The Russian is considered one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey, and his Tampa Bay teammates seem thoroughly confident in him.
“You can see the bright future he has,” Bishop said. “He’s a good kid.”
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