Before Sunday’s post-practice press conference at Consol Energy Center, the last anybody had seen of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, he was being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher.
So the fact Bishop was able to walk to the presser sans any brace or protection and navigate the stairs up to the podium without a limp was an extremely relieving sight after the scare from Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Miraculously, Bishop is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, an almost implausible scenario given the apparent severity of the injury on Friday and the obvious pain Bishop was in as he pounded his fist against the ice immediately after falling and grabbing his left leg.
“It’s a scary experience for myself,” Bishop said. “I saw the play, fell back and felt something I’ve never felt before, pain right away. Your mind just starts racing. You start thinking the worst thing. I’m thinking my leg’s broken, then your mind just starts spinning. I was really scared. Obviously, once I got off the ice and got everything checked out, the x-rays were negative, the MRI was okay. Now it’s just a matter of getting back to where it feels good again. Definitely one of the scariest things that’s happened to me. It’s funny, when something like that happens and your mind just starts racing and thinking the worst. Luckily, it’s not that bad.”
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Bishop hasn’t been ruled out for Game 2 on Monday in Pittsburgh.
“He’s getting better each day, and it’s really encouraging to see,” Cooper said.
Bishop said he’s been on the ice with skates since the injury and was encouraged by how he felt after testing out his leg.
“Take it day by day right now,” he said. “It feels better than it did yesterday. It’s just a matter of getting it to where it feels good enough to go out there and help the team win.”
Bishop said once the initial shock of the injury wore off, he started to think maybe it wasn’t as serious as previously thought. Bishop described the pain as feeling like he had been slashed.
“As I came off the ice and kind of settled down a little bit, emotions kind of settled a little bit and the doctor was messing around with it and could tell he didn’t think it was – from my opinion, you think the bone is sticking out of your leg – so when he’s feeling around and saying it’s going to be okay and then obviously the MRI, you’re just thankful that it’s not anything serious,” Bishop said.
Bishop called his parents as soon as he could to reassure them he wasn’t seriously hurt and said his phone “blew up” from all the calls and text messages.
“A lot of people saying prayers for you, so I’d like to thank everybody that did that,” he said. “It means a lot. I’m sure my family was scared…Everybody was pretty scared but at the same time very thankful for all the texts and all the messages. Appreciate that.”
In Bishop’s absence, 21-year-old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy filled in and stopped 25-of-26 shots to win his second-career playoff game (both coming in relief appearances). Bishop reiterated the team is completely comfortable having Vasilevskiy in net if he’s not able to go in Game 2.
“He’s a great goalie,” Bishop said. “He’s a fun guy to work with on and off the ice. Personally, I know that he can go in there and do the job. He’s a young guy, but he’s got a lot of experience. He played in a Stanley Cup Final last year and played really well, and he’s played well all season…I know the guys in the room and myself, we have full confidence in him. He’s a great young goalie. He’s got a bright future in this league.
As for a pair of other sidelined Bolts, both captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman took part in Sunday’s practice and wore regular jerseys. Stamkos worked on the fourth line with Vladislav Namestnikov and J.T. Brown during 5-on-5 drills and got some work in on the penalty-kill unit. Stralman took rushes with Nikita Nesterov.
Following practice, Cooper said Stralman has been upgraded to day-to-day.
“That’s great news because he is an extremely important player on our team,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be up to Strals here now, how he’s feeling…It’s been encouraging to watch him play, and you look at him right now at practice and you wouldn’t even think he’s hurt. He’s not favoring anything, and so that’s a really good sign.”