TAMPA, Fla. — Goaltender Ben Bishop will miss the rest of the regular season, though a return in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs has not been ruled out.
Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper delivered the news Wednesday afternoon, less than a day after Bishop left early in the first period of a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Times Forum with an upper-body injury. Cooper would not elaborate on the extent of Bishop’s condition, though he said an MRI performed Wednesday showed no breaks or tears on Bishop’s left side.
”I’m not going to tell you whether he’s going to play after the regular season, because there’s a possibility,” Cooper said when addressing the media. ”But right now, we’re going to sit him out here, and as I said, there’s only four days left. And then once the regular season ends, and we enter the playoffs, I’m no longer going to talk about injuries.”
The incident happened five minutes, 43 seconds into the Lightning’s 3-0 victory. Bishop extended his glove hand mid-leap during a dive to collect the puck and landed awkwardly on his left side. He required assistance by a trainer and Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer to leave the ice. He was taken into the dressing room in obvious pain, and Anders Lindback replaced him in net.
”We’re still in the process of figuring things out with him,” Cooper said. ”We’re better off re-evaluating this early next week, just to see where he’s at. It’s kind of a freak thing that happened. … I wouldn’t rule him out (for the first round). I’m not sitting here saying he will, but I’m not saying he won’t.”
Tampa Bay closes the regular season with home games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, before ending the schedule at the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Kristers Gudlevskis, who starred for Latvia against Canada in the Sochi Games, will be promoted from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League to provide depth behind Lindback. Lindback had 25 saves Tuesday.
A prolonged absence by Bishop would be a major setback for the Lightning. He entered Tuesday 37-14-7 this season, part of a campaign in which he set Tampa Bay’s franchise record for wins in a year. He has earned five shutouts. He ranks sixth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage, and he stands ninth in the league with a 2.23 goals-against average.
”It’s unfortunate, not just for our team, but for Ben,” Cooper said. ”He’s had a great run with us this year.”