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Bishop returns to Tampa for first time since being traded

Stars goalie was sent by Lightning to Kings on Feb. 26

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Ben Bishop is quick to remind anyone who will listen that Thursday won't be the first time he'll be in the visitors' locker room at Amalie Arena preparing to play the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-SW, NHL.TV).

"I actually got my first win with [the] Ottawa [Senators] here," the Dallas Stars goalie said Wednesday. "Back in 2012."

 

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A lot has transpired since Bishop made 25 saves in Ottawa's 7-3 win against the Lightning on March 6, 2012.

Bishop was acquired by the Lightning from the Senators on April 3, 2013, in a trade for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. He proceeded to set Lightning records for games played by a goalie (227), wins (131), shutouts (17), saves (5,728) and save percentage (.921). He was selected for the NHL All-Star Game in 2016 and was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2014 and 2016.

Bishop was just as good for the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping them to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and 2016 Eastern Conference Final. He had a 2.09 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and five shutouts in 36 games in the two postseason runs.

"I learned so much about hockey [in Tampa]," Bishop said. "I became a starting goalie here. I met my wife here, got married here. It's kind of like a second home. I love this city. I have a lot of good friends around here. It's great to be back."

Video: DAL@CAR: Bishop turns aside Skinner's backhand

Bishop was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26 for goalie Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Cernak, a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional second-round pick in 2017. The Kings sent Bishop to the Stars on May 9 for a fourth-round pick in 2017, and he signed a six-year, $29.5 million contract three days later.

Bishop, who is 7-5-0 with a 2.68 GAA and .908 save percentage, said the Stars are a perfect fit for him and expects them to continue to improve on their 9-8-1 start.

"I think the city is great, there's a lot of things to do, and the organization is great," Bishop said. "We have a good team here and we're still trying to find our identity this season."

Bishop and the Stars would get a nice boost if they could defeat Lightning, who have the best record in the NHL (14-2-2) and are coming off of a 3-0-0 California trip.

Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos (eight goals, 23 assists) and Nikita Kucherov (16 goals, 14 assists) are Nos. 1 and 2 in the NHL in scoring, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who Bishop described as "kind of a little brother," has 13 wins, putting him on pace to break the Lightning single-season record for wins (40) that Bishop set in 2014-15.

Bishop is looking forward to the challenge of playing the Lightning.

"I'm going to be excited, I think," Bishop said. "I'm going to try to treat it like any other game, but I'm sure there's going to be a little bit different feeling coming in and going into the other locker room. But it should be fun. I'm lucky to be able to do this. It's a great sport, and this just makes it that much more fun."

As for facing Stamkos and Kucherov, Bishop said he saw them starting to develop chemistry last season and isn't surprised they are part of the most productive line in the NHL.

"You have to know where they are on the ice," Bishop said. "[Vladislav Namestnikov] is in there too. They like to look for each other and they obviously both have great shots. It's about knowing where they are on the ice, and if one guy has the puck, look for the other guy real quick because they read each other well."

Bishop remains popular among Tampa Bay fans and Lightning players. Stamkos talked with him for several minutes Wednesday after practice and said he expects the goalie to get a warm reception Thursday.

"He was a huge part of the success we had here in the past four or five seasons, everyone knows that," Stamkos said. "He was a great guy in the room and still a close friend to a lot of us. It's going to be a little weird … but when the puck drops, we're going to try to score as many goals as we can."

Bishop said he and Vasilevskiy have communicated often during the season. He's proud of what the 22-year-old has accomplished early in his tenure as the Lightning's No. 1 goalie, but not surprised.

"To think that he'd be [13-1-1] right now, I don't know if I saw that coming, but he's worked so hard to get here and I'm glad to see that work pay off," Bishop said. "He deserves it. He's always been one of the hardest working guys I met."

Video: DAL@WPG: Bishop makes a series of great saves

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