Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy

Vasilevskiy in spotlight ahead of Game 5

More confident in his goaltending than his English, Andrei Vasilevskiy had one request of reporters Friday.

BRANDON, Fla. — More confident in his goaltending than his English, Andrei Vasilevskiy had one request of reporters Friday.

“No cameras,” the young Russian said, wagging his finger to shoo away any stragglers.

Vasilevskiy is in hockey’s brightest spotlight at the Stanley Cup final but isn’t comfortable with his broken words being videotaped. Depending on the health of Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Ben Bishop, he may again be the centre of attention for Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Bishop missed Game 4 on Wednesday with an undisclosed injury and didn’t practise Friday. His status is the biggest intrigue in the series with the Lightning and Blackhawks tied at two games apiece.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper called it part of the plan for Bishop to take the day off. What comes next is anyone’s guess.

“We’re going to play the guy that gives us the best chance to win the game, whoever that guy is,” Cooper said. “If Ben Bishop can play a game, he’s playing.”

Vasilevskiy said after practice Friday he didn’t know yet if he was starting. The Blackhawks will play the waiting game with everyone else.

“Tough to forecast that,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see what happens. I know that we expected him to play last game.”

Injuries often pile up this time of year. Lightning centre Tyler Johnson is battling something in his hand, arm or wrist — he hasn’t taken a faceoff since one in Game 2 — but insists he’s fine and has stayed in the lineup.

Bishop left Game 2 on June 6, started Game 3 Monday and missed Game. Amid all the uncertainly, Vasilevskiy is not just calm but enjoying living out a childhood dream.

“I’m here in North America just to play hockey,” Vasilevskiy said Friday. “The last two days I have more fun than all season.”

Vasilevskiy stopped 17 of 19 shots in Game 4 and felt good about his first start since March 31.

“I was ready for big pressure on me,” he said.

The 20-year-old Vasilevskiy has been in pressure situations in the world junior championship and KHL playoffs. None of that quite prepared him for facing the likes of Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, who scored on him in Game 4, or Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who doesn’t yet have a goal in the series but could break out at any time.

Vasilevskiy’s best preparation has come from his interactions with Bishop. Called up in January to replace the ineffective Evgeni Nabokov as the full-time backup, he leaned on Bishop to learn how to prepare like a professional.

Asked if he had any goaltending heroes, Vasilevskiy smiled and joked: “No, nobody. I liked how Bish played.” His sense of humour and knowledge of English curse words came through even if he hesitated at times.

“I still speak not really good for cameras,” Vasilevskiy said. “But for writers, yeah. For you, you can change words.”

On the ice, Vasilevskiy is quieter than Bishop, defenceman Matt Carle said, and in the grand scheme of things, the major difference between him and Bishop is he can’t handle the puck quite as well. That’s the biggest real adjustment for the Lightning during goaltender roulette.

“Vasy is getting better at handling the puck, but not at the level of Bish,” Carle said Thursday. “From the standpoint of them stopping the puck, we don’t change the way we play.”

Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins said flipping opposing goalies with varying puck-handling skills doesn’t affect the forecheck at all.

“The tactic doesn’t change too much,” Desjardins said. “The prep’s there. You’re ready for anything.”

Johnson’s injury is another lingering problem for the Lightning. After not taking any faceoffs in Games 3 and 4 and skipping that exercise in practice, Tampa Bay’s leading scorer didn’t want to explain why.

“I think everyone’s banged up,” Johnson said. “When you play this long, I think it’s 104 games already, when you’re doing that, you’re going to be bumped up a little bit but it doesn’t matter right now.

“It’s the Stanley Cup. There’s a maximum three games left and then you’ve got all summer to rest.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Friday, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province’s plan to reduce surgical wait times over the next two years. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Alberta provides more funding to reduce surgery wait times

The province is working to provide better access to surgeries over the… Continue reading

RDC Queens volleyball players Sydney Rix and Emma Holmes gave blood as part of the Bleed Green Challenge, in partnership with Canadian Blood Services. (Photo courtesy RDC Queens Instagram)
Blood donation: RDC Athletics give back with Bleed Green Challenge

In what has been a challenging year for everyone across Alberta, Red… Continue reading

Eastview Middle School’s Jeremy Spink was selected as the 2020/21 NHL/NHLPA Most Valuable Teacher for February (Photo Courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Red Deer teacher earns NHL’s Most Valuable Teacher Award for February

Eastview Middle School’s Jeremey Spink picked up the honour

Silent protests are being held this week in response to Red Deer Public Schools rejecting a Pride Week in favour of a Diversity Week last month. (Photo courtesy Black and Indigenous Alliance Facebook)
Central Albertans protest Red Deer Public Schools’ Pride Week decision

Central Albertans are silently protesting Red Deer Public Schools’ decision to not… Continue reading

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse gas offset program that will govern how developers can register and sell credits earned through projects that reduce emissions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Proposed federal carbon offset credit regulations raise farmer advocate’s concern

CALGARY — Projects that qualify to sell federal greenhouse gas emission credits… Continue reading

The National War Memorial honouring Canadians who served in the military is shown in Ottawa on Sunday, March 31, 2019. A member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadian soldier found dead in his quarters in Afghanistan: military

OTTAWA — A member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died in… Continue reading

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse gas offset program that will govern how developers can register and sell credits earned through projects that reduce emissions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Ottawa unveils proposed federal carbon offset emission credit regulations

CALGARY — The federal government is unveiling proposed regulations for its greenhouse… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government will keep… Continue reading

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Judge rules Alberta pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

EDMONTON — A judge has ruled that an Alberta pastor will remain… Continue reading

Image courtesy Creative Outlet
Man found guilty in attack that left Winnipeg teen with hammer in head

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg judge has found a man guilty in an… Continue reading

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Team Canada third John Morris follows as second Carter Rycroft (right) and lead Nolan Thiessen (left) sweep his rock during round robin competition against Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Brier curling championship, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Champions at The Brier list

Brier champions since the inception of the Canadian men’s curling championship in… Continue reading

Most Read