VANCOUVER — Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was not chosen as part of the U.S. Olympic team, which was unveiled at the conclusion of the Winter Classic.
The 25-man roster included three goaltenders - Buffalo’s Ryan Miller (the hero of the 2010 Silver Medal-winning team), Los Angeles Kings Jonathan Quick and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard - but not Bishop, who represented the U.S. at the World Championships in May.
This comes despite Bishop having the best statistics of any American goaltender in the NHL this season.
Bishop entered Wednesday’s game at Vancouver third in the league with 20 victories, third in goals against (1.89) among goaltenders with at least 15 games played and second in save percentage at .935. In 29 games played, Bishop had allowed more than two goals only five times and entered Wednesday having allowed fewer than three goals in six consecutive starts.
In an article on ESPN.com by Scott Burnside, who was embedded with the selection committee thorughout the process, Bishop’s name did not even enter the conversation among the group until November as Bishop started to show some consistent play in net for Tampa Bay.
“Fabulous record. And we’re not really giving him much love at all,” Team USA general manager David Poile said at the time.
Former Atlanta general manager Don Waddell (now with Pittsburgh) who frequents Lightning games in Tampa, added his support to Bishop having seen him play live several times and said he would put Bishop fourth on the list of six candidates - which included Corey Schneider (New Jersey) and Craig Anderson (Ottawa). But in the end, the committee settled on Howard as the No. 3 guy, citing his playoff experience over Bishop’s lack of big-game experience as well as a disappointing showing at the World Championships when he lost his spot to 20-year-old Josh Giboson.
“I know what Jimmy Howard can do and he got a spot on Team USA based on his body of work,’’ Poile said Wednesday.
D Sami Salo was unable to return to the lineup while dealing with an upper body injury, denying the veteran blue liner from suiting up in his only return to Vancouver this season since leaving the Canucks before last season.
Salo played nine seasons in Vancouver before signing a two-year contract as a free agent with Tampa Bay following the 2011-12 season. Due to the lockout shortened season in 2012-13 Tampa Bay did not face Vancouver last season.
“This is a date that you have circled on your calendar,’’ Salo said. “It’s disappointing, I have a lot of great memories . . . this is obviously a special place that I wanted to play, but that’s obviously not going to happen.’’
C Tom Pyatt missed most of the first two months of the season while recovering from a broken collar bone suffered on Oct. 8. He returned to the lineup Dec. 21 against Carolina but after appearing in four games, Pyatt will be scratched for Wednesday’s game against Vancouver as LW Ryan Malone returns after missing the past six weeks with an ankle injury.
“I feel for (Pyatt) . . . he’s slowly getting better,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “In his absence we found some other guys who can kill penalties. He’s been valuable for us in that area, he wins faceoffs for us. He’s a depth player for us and he’s just going to need more games to get back in. But we are getting healthier now so there is a little bit more competition to get into our lineup now.