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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Two goalies, both starting as No. 1’s

TAMPA — Two young up-and-coming goaltenders. One net.

The math does not add up.

But the Lightning are hoping that two goaltenders — Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback — pushing each other equals one winning formula.

If that means the internal competition pushes one to the next level and he grabs the top spot, that’s great. If that internal competition keeps them both at the top of their games each and every night, and the starts end up being split come season’s end, that’s fine, too.

“I think it’s going to separate itself at some point,’’ Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I’ve been through the situation before at various levels and we won a Calder Cup (in the American Hockey League) basically splitting goaltenders, so I think it can be healthy.

“Would you like one guy to take the reins and be the guy? Of course you would, because that means he’s the guy and you kind of want that. But they are both unbelievably capable.’’

Goaltending has been a revolving door for the organization, especially in the three seasons general manager Steve Yzerman has been in charge as nine different netminders have started at least one game.

Tampa Bay invested a lot to acquire the two young goaltenders — Bishop is 26, Lindback is 25 — via trade. Lindback cost Tampa Bay a pair of second-round picks and a third-round selection, while popular prospect Cory Conacher was dealt to acquire Bishop at the end of last season.

Now the competition will begin, with the plan to split starts to begin the season and let it play out.

“We have two young guys, two guys that are very eager to play that have to earn their ice time and that’s just what they are going to be trying to do every day and try to be the best they can be to earn that ice,’’ goaltending coach Frantz Jean said.

Bishop has been here before, battling with Brian Elliott in St. Louis for the backup job two years ago, and then for playing time with Robin Lehner in Ottawa last season after Craig Anderson was injured.

“Camp is pretty much the same as every camp. You got to go in and play well,’’ said Bishop, who went 3-4-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage after arriving in Tampa Bay last season. “You are competing against everybody and you’re trying to take somebody’s job or somebody is trying to take yours so that never changes. It is just part of the business. You (have to) play well and let your game do the talking.’’

Lindback, who served as the backup to Pekke Rinne for two seasons in Nashville before coming to Tampa, took the bulk of the work at the start of last season before faltering after the first month. Just when he seemed to be turning a corner, a high ankle sprain derailed his season.

“I started to feel comfortable, I slowed things down a little bit,’’ he said. “I thought I was pretty much all over the place at parts of the season, a lot of ups and downs and then I found a good feeling and then the injury came.’’

He didn’t feel the ankle was fully healed until midway through the summer, but he’s 100 percent now and ready to compete.

“I know I’m fighting for a starting job and all I can really do is try to focus on my game and try to be as best as I can so that I get a chance to play as much as I can,’’ Lindback said. “We are kind of in the same spot fighting for the job so it’s going to be good for us both.

“I think it’s always good to have competition and we can learn from each other and push each other, so I think it’s good for both of us and it’s good for the team.’’

Which, ultimately, is what the team wants.

“I think it’s an asset for our organization,’’ Jean said. “You have two guys that are hungry, both had great summers in their preparation and they are eager to come in and show us and show everybody that they are genuine starters.

“I think we can only benefit from that. So I think we are in a good situation.’’

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