TAMPA — At various points throughout the first 79 games of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning endured their share of potholes and bumps along the road.
The loss of starting goaltender Ben Bishop to injury a week before the start of the playoffs is the latest patch of rocky road the team will have to find a way to navigate around.
“This is just another bump in the road,’’ Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I just did not expect that we were going to go through a cobblestone street this whole year.’’
Bishop, who set a franchise record with 37 victories this season, will sit out the final three games of the regular season after suffering an undisclosed upper body injury during the first period of Tuesday’s game against Toronto, but his status for the start of the postseason is unclear. The fact that Bishop has not been ruled out for a possible return during the first round of the playoffs, however, is more encouraging news than some expected after seeing Bishop leave the ice favoring his left arm after landing awkwardly on his outstretched left arm while diving to catch a puck, with his wrist the first part to strike the ice as he landed.
After Bishop underwent testing on Wednesday, Cooper indicated there is no structural damage to the injured area and nothing is broken.
“This is not something that Ben Bishop is done see you in September, that is not it at all but he’s going to need to be recuperate a little bit and he needs to get healthier,’’ Cooper said. “We are still in the process of figuring things out with him. We are better off re-evaluating this early next week just to see where he is at. I would say right now it’s a little bit more than day-to-day but we are going to get into our first round series and then we will start to see where he potentially is at. I would say the next 5 to 6 days will be really telling of where we are going to be at.’’
In the meantime Tampa Bay called Kristers Gudlevskis, who made a name for himself at the Olympics stopping 55 shots for Latvia in a 2-1 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals, from Syracuse of the American Hockey League. But he will be the backup as the reigns will be handed over to Anders Lindback, who entered Tuesday’s game in relief and stopped all 25 shots he faced to earn the victory against Toronto and will get the call Thursday against Philadelphia.
Though Lindback has struggled throughout most of the season, he came through on Tuesday and the 25-year-old feels he has something to prove if he is called upon when the playoffs begin next week.
“I’m really confident in myself that I can play at this level and I can even raise my game,’’ said Lindback, who is 6-12-2 with a 3.11 goals against average and .884 save percentage this season. “I think I’m the guy putting the most pressure on myself and I’m just trying to compete every day and do my best so it’s an opportunity every game I get to play.’’
Just as the team rallied around the loss of Steven Stamkos to injury in November and the trade of Marty St. Louis in March, there is a sense the same will take place with Bishop given the experiences the team has gone through already this season.
“I guess we are as prepared as ever,’’ Stamkos said. “Any time we faced it this year we found a way so I guess that’s been our motto as we have progressed through the season. Obviously we hope that Bish is okay and if not we have to prepare like Lindy is going to be our guy. He stepped in and play an unbelievable game for us (Tuesday). That’s the most confident I’ve seen him play all year so what better time. We don’t know exactly what is going on but I think we’ve shown that we can play through adversity this year and this will be another challenge for us.’’