Cup Finals notebook: Bishop questionable for Game 5

Associated Press

Brandon, Fla. — Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper is unsure if injured goaltender Ben Bishop will return for Saturday's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago.

Bishop sat out the Lightning's 2-1 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday night with an undisclosed lower body injury. The series is tied 2-2.

"I do not know sitting here today if Ben Bishop is going to play (today)," Cooper said after Friday's practice. "I hope he plays. I don't know if he's going to. He's got to get back on the ice. If he's not in the pregame skate (today), that's a pretty good indication of whether he's going to play or not."

Bishop didn't practice Friday, which was predetermined.

"Bish, don't be alarmed that he's not out there," Cooper said. "He's feeling better with each day. When we made the decision not to play him the other night, the decision just wasn't made, 'Oh, we're not going to play him.' It's, 'We're not playing you and you're taking the next three days off.'

"This was all in the plan."

Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, will get another start for the Lightning if Bishop can't go.

The rookie won Game 2 in relief, and played well Wednesday in his first playoff start, giving Tampa Bay little reason to worry about the potentially precarious position.

Vasilevskiy said he is ready.

"For sure," he said. "That's why I'm here. I'm very excited."

Stars seek goals

After Steven Stamkos stepped off the practice rink on a 90-degree June day, the Tampa Bay captain made it clear he is well aware he hasn't scored a goal yet in his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Stamkos and his Lightning teammates are determined to keep their cool and their focus when this series with the Blackhawks begins its sprint to the finish in Game 5.

"Keep playing the game the right way, and eventually you're going to get rewarded," Stamkos said Friday.

Chicago's Patrick Kane feels much the same way, both about his own goalless final and the Blackhawks performance in general.

Both stars are hoping for that breakthrough score this weekend at Amalie Arena, where either the Lightning or the Blackhawks will end the 2-2 series tie and move one win away from a title.

The Lightning and the Blackhawks realize the enormous stakes for Game 5 in a series that still hasn't featured a two-goal lead for either team. They're also attempting to direct that excitement into motivation instead of intimidation.

"You've got to get caught up in the moment," Cooper said. "You have to embrace where we are. It's the middle of June, and we're still playing hockey.

"The Stanley Cup is up for grabs in the best-two-out-of-three. I don't think we should be afraid of that. This is the time of our lives."

Chicago's Duncan Keith and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman have embraced this moment better than anyone.

Keith or Hedman are the odds-on favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.

Keith and Hedman are 1-2 in the NHL during the postseason plus-minus ratings and total minutes.


Tampa Bay vs. Chicago

Tied 2-2

Game 1: Chicago 2-1

Game 2: Tampa Bay 4-3

Game 3: Tampa Bay 3-2

Game 4: Chicago 2-1

Saturday: at Tampa Bay, 8 p.m.

Monday: at Chicago, 8 p.m.

x-Wednesday: at Tampa Bay, 8 p.m.

all games on NBC and CBC; x-if necessary