Tampa, Fla. – Jeff Blashill said he will use the same lineup against Steve Yzerman’s Lightning Tuesday night as used against the Panthers Saturday in a stirring, 5-3, come-from-behind win.
He also said the offensive priority for the team remains much the same, and if the Wings can get underneath the Tampa Bay defenders and toward the crease of big Ben Bishop, they stand a much better chance of sustaining offense.
Bishop, in a 2-0 win over the Coyotes on Saturday, set the Tampa Bay career record for shutouts (15).
“Certainly, he’s right there with the best,” Blashill said. “I think he’s proven that.
“The hard part in the league as a goalie is that you’ve got to prove it every year and he’s followed up some good years, one, two, three in a row, here.”
The Blues selected Bishop, a Denver native who is 29, in the third round in 2005. Yzerman acquired him from the Senators in exchange for Cory Conacher in April 2013.
He has a lot of attributes, in addition to his size – 6-foot-7 and 216 pounds.
“He’s very good positionally,” Blashill said. “He’s obviously very big. He knows how to fill a net well, and he’s athletic. He also knows how to play the puck well. So, he’s certainly established himself as one of the elite goalies in the league.
“Like every other goalie, we’re going to have to do a good job of having great net presence, of making sure we’re in front of his eyes as often as possible.”
The Red Wings enter the game averaging 2.5 goals per game, and the Lightning 2.7. The Wings yield 2.6 goals and the Lightning 2.3.
In an unusual circumstance this season, the Red Wings have the better power play, 21st in the NHL at 17.2 percent, while the Lightning are 26th at 16.3 percent.
But the Lightning’s penalty kill is better, fourth in the league at 84.1 percent, compared to 14th and 81.3 percent for the Wings.
Jimmy Howard will start for the Red Wings. After periods as a backup to the Wings’ No. 1 goalie, Petr Mrazek, his game is sharply improved.
From Dec. 29 through March 16, Howard appeared in nine of 35 games. But in his last five, since Feb. 21 against the Rangers, he has a 2.06 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
Mrazek said he felt healthier Tuesday, and he looked it, with a lot of color returning to his face after appearing pale again Monday.
But the morning skate Tuesday was only his second significant practice, and completed back-to-back efforts on consecutive days, something Mrazek said is critical to his eventual return.
“Our focus is trying to win a hockey game tonight,” Blashill said. “We think Jimmy gives us a great chance to win.”