Blackhawks

Cooper: Lightning's starting goalie still unknown

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Cooper: Lightning's starting goalie still unknown

TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was surrounded by a massive media group when he was asked who is goaltending idol was.

“I liked how 'Bish' played,” the young Russian, referring to normal starter Ben Bishop, said to laughs.

The question is, will Vasilevskiy be starting for his goaltending hero for a second consecutive game?

Bishop did not practice with the Lightning on Friday, one day before they’ll host the Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevskiy played well in the Lightning’s 2-1 loss in Game 4 and admitted that even he didn’t know if he’s playing on Saturday night. He’ll be prepared for anything including, if he plays, seeing more than the two first-period shots the Blackhawks threw at him on Wednesday.

“[The] guys did a very good job and think about our net,” Vasilevskiy said. “That's why we (allowed) just 19 shots.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for Game 5, Blackhawks fans!]

It’s still unclear what’s ailing Bishop but the goaltender taking Friday off was planned, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

“Bish, don't be alarmed that he's not out there,” Cooper said. “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.”

Vasilevskiy, who’s still learning English, has asked there be no cameras be present when he conducts interviews – “Yeah, I still speak not really good for cameras. But for writers, yeah; for you, you can change words.” His comfort level in net was fine on Wednesday. It probably helped that he came in during a very tense time, the third period of Game 2, when Bishop first had issues with his undisclosed injury.

[PRO HOCKEY TALK: Everybody's watching the Stanley Cup Final]

So if Vasilevskiy does play on Saturday, he’s ready.

“I think I'll have more confidence,” he said. “I got some experience right now in Stanley Cup Final. That's it. In my head right now, mentally, I got more power right now. When you play, you get good feeling, more fun. I think next game, if I will play, I will feel much better.”

The Blackhawks had their goaltending questions in the first round, although those didn’t revolve around one being injured. The Lightning still don’t know who their guy is on Saturday. It’ll either be Bishop, or the backup who looks up to Bishop.

“I don't know sitting here today if Ben Bishop is playing on Saturday. I hope he plays. I don't know if he's going to,” Cooper said. “He's got to get back on the ice. If he's not in the pregame skate tomorrow, that's a pretty good indication of whether he's going to play or not.”

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

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USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.