Ben Bishop could make his first appearance of the preseason when the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena tonight.
Bishop joined the Lightning in training camp from the World Cup of Hockey earlier this week. He was one of two goalies along with Kristers Gudlevskis among the game group for the contest against the Predators and was on the ice for the Bolts' morning skate at Bridgestone on Saturday.
If Bishop does play tonight, he'll have a high standard to follow. On Thursday, Gudlevskis made 21 saves to shut out the Florida Panthers 2-0 for the Bolts' first win of the preseason. A night later in Raleigh, Andrei Vasilevskiy made his preseason debut and stopped 27-of-28 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Lightning will play their third game in three days when they face off against Nashville tonight.
In addition to Bishop, a few more WCH participants will suit up and play for the Lightning for the first time tonight. Jonathan Drouin, Vladislav Namestnikov, Valtteri Filppula and Andrej Sustr are all on the Bolts' roster for tonight's game and skated this morning.
Filppula centered a line with Namestnikov on his left and Drouin on his right during morning skate. Sustr paired defensively with Braydon Coburn.
"It's definitely exciting being back with the Lightning, and I'm looking forward to tonight's game," Drouin said. "The juices are starting to flow, and you can feel it in the room."
The Lightning have given up just one goal in their last two preseason games, that coming late on a 6-on-4 advantage for Carolina in Friday's victory. The Hurricanes' goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation ended a stretch of over 147 minutes dating back to the preseason opener in which the Lightning hadn't given up a goal.
"We want to focus on our defensive zone," Drouin explained. "We've been doing it for two years now. I think that's our main focus now is to get better on goals against and all that stuff. Vasy played great in Carolina last night, so we're definitely focusing on our defensive side, even if it's preseason."
Drouin said, personally, there are a number of things he worked on during the offseason he would like to incorporate into his debut tonight, but there's one aspect of his game in particular he'll be focusing on.
"It's shooting more still," he said. "That's still one of my main focuses, not passing up on shots for that perfect pass is the biggest thing for me."
NOT PENALIZED: Despite giving up a power-play goal in the waning moments of regulation in Friday night's overtime victory for Tampa Bay, the Lightning penalty kill has been pretty much perfect over the first half of the preseason.
The Bolts' PK entered Friday's game against Carolina having killed off all 12 opposition power plays. That trend continued into last night's game when the Lightning killed the Canes' first four power plays. Carolina finally broke through on power play number five when Brayden Point was given four minutes in the box for high sticking late in the game, and the Canes' Jeff Skinner was able to backhand a rebound over Vasilevskiy and into the net to tie the game 1-1 and send it to overtime.
Ondrej Palat made sure that late goal didn't hurt, scoring 1:38 into the extra session to give the Bolts their second-straight preseason win.
"The one thing is, I think penalty kills have a little bit of benefit because power plays aren't quite set," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said following the win in Raleigh. "Guys haven't practiced a ton on the power play yet. But we're not giving up a lot of chances, and that's what you like. And then it takes a 6-on-4 with an outstanding backhand in tight by a skilled player for that to go in or they might not get anything. So our penalty kill has carried on from last year and been really good this year."
The Lightning ranked seventh in the NHL on the penalty kill in 2015-16 and have continued this preseason to showcase one of the top PK units in the league, despite the mix of personnel over three games.
Last night, Point, Luke Witkowski, Joel Vermin and Nikita Nesterov were the Bolts' top PK unit. On Thursday, it was Cedric Paquette, Dylan Blujus, Erik Condra and Daniel Walcott. In the preseason opener, Point, Braydon Coburn, Matt Spencer and Brett Howden took the first shift on Carolina's opening power play.
"I think it says a lot about the depth of the organization," Tyler Johnson said. "A lot of those guys coming up from juniors and the American League, a lot of guys play penalty kill. They sacrifice themselves. Preseason, everybody's trying to make the team, they're trying to do everything they possibly can and they're sticking to the system."
LINE COMBINATIONS: The Lightning will go with the following lines and defensive combinations for their game tonight at Nashville.
Namestnikov - Filppula - Drouin
Gourde - Peca - Conacher
Boyle - Paquette - Condra
McGinn - Stephens - Morin
Coburn - Sustr
Nesterov - Wisniewski
Koekkoek - Witkowski