Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made his way onto the United Center ice for Monday’s optional morning skate session ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago.
Bishop, with rookie backup Andrei Vasilevskiy in the opposite net, took part in all drills and was the first goalie off the ice, typically an indication that he will start later that night for the Lightning.
Bishop, however, remained silent on whether he would start Game 3 and the circumstances that led to him leaving the ice twice during the third period of Game 2.
Asked if it was an injury or illness that forced him to leave Saturday’s game, Bishop, during a post-morning skate media session, responded: “I’m not going to be much help to you guys right now, so I’m not going to comment on that.”
Asked if he’d be available to play Game 3, Bishop said: “We’ll see.”
When pumped for more, Bishop joked: “I feel like Marshawn Lynch right now,” and apologized on his way out of the interview room for not having more answers.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was equally vague during his media availability.
“I don’t know who’s starting,” Cooper said. “I will find out after this media session. We have two capable goalies that we have 100 percent confidence in. That’s all I can say. One of them will play: Vasy or Bish. That’ll be determined tonight.”
Bishop leads the NHL in postseason victories (12) and shutouts (3). Vasilevskiy became the fourth goalie in Stanley Cup Final history to win a game he didn’t start and, at 20-years-old, is the youngest netminder to win in the Stanley Cup Final since Patrick Roy in 1986.
20-year-old rookie Jonathan Drouin made his debut Stanley Cup Final appearance in Game 2, his first action since Game 4 of the Second Round Montreal series.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft recorded two shots on goal and one hit in 7:52 of ice time against Chicago.
Drouin said he will take part in warmups tonight like he did for Game 2, and Cooper said there’s a possibility he might play a second-straight game.
“Jonathan Drouin is a big part of us,” Cooper said. “I thought the other night, everything we asked him to do, he did.”
Drouin skated in 70 games during the regular season, scoring four goals and adding 28 assists. He has yet to record a point in four playoff games so far.
“One great thing about our team, we believe in each other, we believe in what’s going on, we believe in the lineup that’s going in,” Cooper said. “Has Jonathan proved he can play more games in this series? Yes he has.”
At 7-3 away from Amalie Arena, the Lightning have the best road playoff record in the NHL. Tampa Bay has won three-straight on the road and took three of four in Madison Square Garden during the Eastern Conference Final.
Conversely, Chicago has been near-unbeatable during the 2015 Playoffs at the United Center, going 7-1.
Something will have to give in tonight’s Game 3.
“This is a tough building to play in. We realize that,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “These guys are very skilled…I think we’ve seen in the first two games that we can hang in the department of puck possession and making plays and being smart. Like I said all along, we’ve had confidence in our group since we started this postseason run. This will be another challenge. We’ve played some pretty tough teams in some pretty tough rinks. This will be another one.”
Cooper said the Lightning’s playoff road toughness stems from a belief they’re never out of a game, reinforced during their comeback from two goals down late in Game 4 at Detroit.
Once the Bolts proved they could rally in the difficult environment Joe Louis Arena presents, Cooper said, the team grew in confidence.
“Those are building blocks, and once you do it once and all of a sudden you have the confidence to do it a second time and then all of a sudden it’s in your psyche that there’s never a game you think you’re out of,” Cooper said.