Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Carle participated in morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Sunday ahead of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Carle missed Game 4 and most of Game 3 after taking a hard hit at center ice midway through the first period of Game 3 and has been day-to-day since with an undisclosed injury.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper wouldn’t say whether Carle is in the lineup tonight but seemed optimistic about his return.
“I think he’s going to be available,” Cooper said.
Carle said he’ll wait to see how he feels following today’s morning skate before deciding whether or not to play.
“Over the course of the last couple of days, I’ve been feeling better so decided to go out on the ice (today).”
Carle has two assists through 16 playoff games thus far.
The Lightning have been getting plenty of scoring from their top two lines during the Eastern Conference Final but nothing from the rest.
Five players – Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn – have scored all 14 goals for the Bolts through four games. The Lightning need contributions from others to supplement the major scoring lines.
“You obviously are hoping for the guys to get going,” Stamkos said. “It’s not for lack of effort. The guys are playing well. They’re trying to do some things to spark the guys, it’s just sometimes things just aren’t going. But hopefully here in the next couple games, guys can step up. I know they’re working extremely hard, they’re putting a little pressure on themselves but it’s going to come. It’s a matter of time. You watch the other series, and third, fourth line guys are scoring some big goals. We have the belief and confidence in our guys that they can come through.”
One of those third-line guys is Ryan Callahan, who has yet to score in the postseason. The Lightning are 24-3-0 when he records a goal since the team acquired him last season.
“I’m a guy that needs to contribute more and put the puck in the net,” Callahan said. “Defensively and things like that, I feel good about (my game). (Scoring) is a part of my game that has to improve and I have to put points up, I know that.”
Cooper said more important than secondary scoring for success tonight will be his team’s ability to limit the amount of quality chances they give up.
“We’ve gone into these last few games thinking guns are slinging, we’re going to shoot this one out,” Cooper said. “We’re not winning if that’s the mindset. We need secondary scoring, but we need to keep the puck out of the net.”
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has given up five goals in back-to-back games for the first time all season
He’s also recorded a shutout in a winner-take-all Game 7 in the First Round versus Detroit and has given up a single goal on four separate occasions.
It’s all part of the up and down nature of playoff hockey he said.
“You can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Bishop said. “You really can’t look at it like a playoff series. You kind of have to treat it like the regular season. You’re playing a bunch of games. There’s going to be some good ones. There’s going to be some bad ones.”
Usually when Bishop has a bad one, he follows it up with a really good one.
“He has the confidence in himself, and it’s contagious,” Stamkos said. “He was disappointed in the way he played. You could see it in his eyes, and he’s responded. I think he’s got over it. I’m sure he made the adjustments that he feels necessary, and he’s confident in his game. We’ll look forward to him being on his game tonight.”
Stamkos said Bishop wasn’t the only Bolt off his game in Game 4. The entire team played poorly in the 5-1 drubbing that leveled the series two games apiece heading into tonight’s pivotal Game 5.
“We’re disappointed in our play, and we expect to come out and play a lot better than we did,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, you can’t sit here and say you’re going to win the game for sure, but we need to get back to the play that has made us successful and gives us the best chance to win. And if we do that, we should be OK.”