Ben Bishop will start his 13th game of the season when the Tampa Bay Lightning close out a four-game road trip tonight against the Minnesota Wild.
Bishop has given up two or fewer goals in his last four starts but is 0-4-0 over that stretch.
The 28-year-old goaltender set a Lightning franchise record for most starts to begin a season by manning the net for the Bolts’ first eight games, surpassing Nikolai Khabibulin, who made seven-straight starts to open the 2002-03 season. But with the return of Andrei Vaseilevskiy, who missed the first month of the season after having surgery to remove a blood clot in September, Bishop has been getting more rest recently, starting just one of the previous three games on the road trip.
Bishop is 2-1-0 with seven goals allowed in four games against Minnesota.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was hopeful second-year pro Jonathan Drouin would return to the lineup sometime during the current road trip, but that appears unlikely now.
Drouin, who has missed the last five games, is still hampered by a lower-body injury that hasn’t progressed as quickly as expected.
“Naturally, it’s a concern because we didn’t anticipate it was going to be this long,” Cooper said. “The injury he has, those are tough ones. It’s affecting him in his stride and his battle and his power. You don’t want to have guys out there that are playing apprehensive because they’re hurt.”
Cooper said Drouin would be reevaluated when the Lightning return to Tampa late tonight following the game in Minnesota.
Despite playing in just 10 of Tampa Bay’s 15 games, Drouin ranks tied for fifth on the Lightning for assists with five and tied for seventh for points with six.
“Especially for a team that’s struggling to score goals, we’d love to have him in there,” Cooper said. “But, he can’t go yet, and it’s unfortunate both for him and us.”
MISERY IN MINNESOTA
The Wild’s Xcel Energy Center was the scene of the Lightning’s worst loss during the 2014-15 regular season, a 7-2 defeat on the second half of a back-to-back set at the end of an eight-day road trip.
Former Bolts goalie Evgeni Nabokov gave up four goals in the first period before being pulled for Bishop 17 minutes into the game.
“We’ve had some tough ones in this building,” Cooper said. “It always seems like we come in at the very last game of a trip. At least this year, we’re not coming off a back-to-back. But they work very, very hard. They have a system. They stick to it. They know exactly what they’re throwing at you.”
The Lightning have lost three straight at Minnesota and are 2-7-0 with just four points in Saint Paul. The Bolts’ .222 win percentage in road games against the Wild is their second-lowest of any NHL opponent.
Only in Detroit do the Lightning have a worse win percentage (.205, 4-17-1).
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Tonight, the Lightning wrap up a season-long stretch where eight out of 10 games have come on the road.
Eleven of Tampa Bay’s first 16 games to begin the season come away from Amalie Arena. Starting Tuesday, the Lightning have a three-game home stand and play six of their next seven at home.
“It’s been a tough grind,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “I think if we can get a win today, we can get a pretty decent start when you look at the schedule. We can’t look beyond this game though and be excited to get home. We have to take care of this game, and then it’ll be nice to finally get home and be able to go through our normal routine and get in front of our home fans.”
The Lightning are 5-3-2 on the road so far this season.
Tonight’s game against Minnesota will be the seventh out of the last 12 versus an opponent from the Central Division. Tampa Bay is 1-3-2 against Central foes so far…The Lightning took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission Thursday at Buffalo, the only time this season they’ve been ahead after the opening period. The Bolts were the last team in the NHL to hold a lead after the first…Tampa Bay is 5-0-0 when leading after the second period and 0-4-0 when trailing after two…Bishop has faced 337 shots this season, tied for second-most in the NHL.