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Lightning likely without Bishop for Game 7

Tampa Bay coach 'doesn't anticipate' goalie being able to play vs. Pittsburgh; Stamkos still sidelined

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

TAMPA -- If center Steven Stamkos and goalie Ben Bishop are going to have any chance to play again this season, they're likely going to need their Tampa Bay Lightning teammates to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final without them.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper didn't sound optimistic Wednesday that Stamkos, who has been sidelined since March 31 because of a blood clot, will be able to play against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"Nothing has changed as far as our end, so that's all I've got for you," Cooper said before the Lightning flew to Pittsburgh.

In addition, Cooper essentially ruled out Bishop, who hasn't played since he sustained what the 29-year-old goaltender called a lower-leg injury in Game 1 against the Penguins.

"I haven't talked to the trainers since [Tuesday] night," Cooper said. "Not a lot has changed. We'll get together [Wednesday night] as a staff and see where everybody is, but, as of now, I don't anticipate Ben being in."

Video: Rosen on the status of Stamkos for Game 7

On Tuesday, Bishop said he is feeling better every day and discussed playing in the Stanley Cup Final should the Lightning advance.

"That's definitely the goal," Bishop told the Tampa Bay Times. "You can kind of see the light there. It's just a matter of not trying to do too much, too fast. 

"It's been a big improvement the last three days as far as how it feels. It's still not quite there, I'm still favoring it a little bit. It's a process, you can't just jump right in. It's encouraging at least the last three days you're really seeing the improvement, moving a little bit better."

Even if the Lightning are able to defeat the Penguins in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup Final, Stamkos might not play another game for them. The 26-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and it is unclear if the Lightning will be able re-sign their captain.

He had vascular surgery on April 4 to clear a blood clot near his right collarbone and has been on blood thinners since then. The initial diagnosis was that he would miss 1-3 months. As of Wednesday, he's at seven weeks and two days.

Although the situations are not identical, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had a similar condition and surgery, which included removing an upper rib, on Sept. 3 and returned a little more than eight weeks later.

Stamkos, who led the Lightning with 36 goals during the regular season, has been practicing since April 26 and said hockey-wise and conditioning-wise, he feels ready to play. But he acknowledged last week that it's possible he won't play again this season.

"I don't think in this situation you're going to get a 100 percent green light or a 100 percent red light," he said. "It's just something that hasn't been studied and there hasn't been a lot of data on when it's safe to come back from something like this, so the more opinions you get, the more information you gather, then the more confusing it gets. That's just the way it is, but, for me, I've always tried to just gather as much information with my family and my agents and friends and, obviously, the team and just put that all together."

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