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Bishop practices, not expected to play in Game 4

Tampa Bay goalie hopeful he can return against Penguins during conference final

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is not expected to play against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), coach Jon Cooper said Thursday.

Bishop practiced Thursday but likely will miss his third straight game because of a lower-body injury sustained with 7:35 remaining in the first period of Game 1. He had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher.

Returning to practice was a "step in the right direction," Bishop said. He's hopeful that he can play again in the series, but there is no indication when or if he'll be back.

"It was nice to be back out there chirping with the guys again," Bishop said. "It's a process and [Thursday] was better than [Wednesday]. Hopefully [Friday] will be better than [Thursday] and we can keep taking steps in the right direction."

It's the third consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs in which Bishop has missed time because of an injury. In 2014 he was out because of a dislocated elbow when the Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. Last season he did not play in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks because of a groin injury.

"There's two ways to look at it," said Bishop, who went 35-21-4 this season and is a Vezina Trophy finalist. "It's really bad luck. But at the same you're getting to the conference finals and getting to Stanley Cup [Final]. It's obviously unfortunate. But at the same time we're still playing hockey, so that's positive."

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 44 saves in a 4-2 loss in Game 3, has been more than capable as a backup, although the Lightning have lost the two games he's started. Vasilevskiy has a .930 save percentage in the series.

"[Vasilevskiy] has been great," Bishop said. "He's given us to chance to win every night. That's all you can ask as a goalie and he's done that both nights. I think they are doing a good job of playing into our zone. And then obviously when we're getting the puck we have to dump it and kind of regroup. So we aren't spending too much time in their zone. They are getting better puck management and that's probably the big thing right now. They are a fast team and they have a lot of fast players that want to play offense. So it's important to try to make them play defense and get sustained time in their zone."

One of Bishop's biggest strengths is his puck-handling ability, but he isn't sure how much of a difference that would make against the Penguins as long as they are not being forced to dump the puck in the zone.

"It's tough to say but you look at the last game and they weren't having to dump too many pucks in," Bishop said. "I don't think you had too many handling [opportunities] because they were carrying a lot of pucks in."

Bishop said he will continue to work with goalie coach Frantz Jean before practices and morning skates. But he does not want to return before he is physically ready.

"It's one of those things where you really want to come back as soon as possible, but at the same time you got to make sure you're ready," Bishop said. "You don't want to come back and hurt the team."

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