BRANDON, Fla. -- A trip to the Tampa Bay Lightning's suburban facility for their final practice of the season brought some instant news: Goaltender Ben Bishop was not on the ice, seemingly putting his status for Game Five Saturday night in major doubt.
Or is it?
"Don't be alarmed that he's not out there," cautioned coach Jon Cooper. " I'm not going to sit here and commit as to whether he's going to play Saturday. He's feeling better with each day. When we made the decision not to play him the other night, the decision just wasn't made, 'Oh, we're not going to play him.' It's, 'We're not playing you and you're taking the next three days off. '
"This was all in the plan. We'll have a better indication tomorrow at the morning skate."
Cooper was noncommital when asked if he would play a less-than-100-percent Bishop, given the setting of Stanley Cup final series tied at two wins apiece. Rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got the win in relief and played well in Game Four, will go ahead if Bishop can't.
"We're going to play the guy that gives us the best chance to win the game, whoever that guy is," Cooper said. "Is that gauged on a percentage basis of how 'Bish' is healthy? I don't know if I can say that. If Ben Bishop can play a game, he's playing."
Vasilevskiy, who is working hard on his English but speaks slowly to ensure what he's saying is correct, is not yet comfortable with swarms of television cameras and requested they move away from his locker. He then spoke to a group of print reporters.
"That's why I'm here in North America just to play hockey," he said. "The last two days I have more fun than all season. That's awesome. I'm very excited. ... All my life it's just my dream. I hope if I will play next game, I'll be much better than a day ago."
"He's showed maturity well beyond his years, not only as a person but as a player in this league," said Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos. "We saw his first start he has that confidence. So we'll see what happens tomorrow but he think he answered any questions about ability."
A light moment came when Vasilevskiy was asked who his goaltending hero was. The kid didn't name any of the current Russians in the NHL, or 2004 Lightning Stanley Cup hero Nikolai Khabibulin or Soviet legend Vladislav Tretiak.
His answer, with a smile: "I like how Bish plays.
"Seriously. Unbelievable. I'm learning a lot from Bish. That's it. I like the way he plays."
The Blackhawks are currently practicing in Chicago. They will fly here and are scheduled to meet the media at 5 p.m.