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Five Q's: Lightning's Bishop close to 100 percent

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 10:59 AM / Features
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday during the regular season and every other Tuesday in the offseason. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop:

Ben Bishop still can't quite believe the freaky way last season abruptly ended for him.

"It's just crazy to even think about how it happened," the Lightning goalie said last week.

It was early in the first period April 8 against the Toronto Maple Leafs when Bishop went to catch the puck in a routine way. As he was falling to the ice he put out his left arm to brace himself. He landed hard, felt his elbow lock, and immediately knew his season was over.

Bishop said he dislocated his elbow and tore ligaments in it. His season was over and the Lightning weren't too far behind. Without Bishop, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, Tampa Bay was swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round.

"It was just a freak accident, something I wouldn't wish on anybody," Bishop said. "I look back on it and I can't believe it happened. I was really looking forward to the playoffs and to have that happen a week before was bad timing."

The elbow injury was the biggest bummer in Bishop's breakout season, but the injury and subsequent surgery to his right wrist have been the focal points of his summer training, which has been more about rehab than anything else.

That's where the following wide-ranging Q&A with Bishop begins.

Here are Five Questions with…Ben Bishop:

Before we do look forward, let's take a look back. How debilitating was the wrist problem you had last season and can you tell the background story of how it developed?

"It happened in warmups in Edmonton in January. I just took a shot on it. It was one of those things that over time was getting worse and worse, and the one shot in warmups made it flare up. We tried to tape it for the game and the first period someone hit my blocker and I just kind of lost all strength in it. It took about a week and a half to calm down and I came back and was able to play. We tried taping it with a little cast and that worked for a couple of weeks, but then I took another shot and it was the same thing as the first time. It was the game before the Olympic break. I played the game before the break against Detroit almost in a cast. Then over the break we were able to build something and I played with a hard cast on top that was kind of sawed in half and a full splint that went under my palm. I couldn't bend my wrist. There are some saves in tight when you like to cut the angle off and put your wrist right over the puck, and I wasn't able to do that. It was an adjustment period learning how to play with my hand in a cast. There were probably three or four goals that I would have had if I didn't have a cast on, maybe a little more, but I learned to play with that."

So how are you now, months removed from the injury and after surgery on the wrist? How is the wrist and how about the elbow too?

"That was the plan as soon as the season ended to have the wrist taken care of. The elbow healed up and that's back to 100 percent now. As for the wrist, I started skating in the last couple of weeks and I have a pad under my blocker now just to take away from some of the blow of taking shots off of it. I was down in Tampa with the trainers and equipment guys to figure out a blocker to work with for the next month. I'm starting to take shots and it's getting there. It's not 100 percent yet, but hopefully before the start of the season it'll be close.

"Just because it hasn't been messed with over the last three or four months the pounding from the shot still irritates it. Scott Clemmensen had the same wrist injury, same surgeon, and I've been in contact with him. He says he feels great now so I'm not worried about it."

Do you feel the fact that you were a Vezina Trophy finalist last season means you're a proven goalie in the NHL, or are you still of the mindset that you have to prove yourself the way you've had to your entire career?

"I think I proved to myself and other players that I can play at that level, but I think every year you're trying to go out and prove yourself. You're never going to be satisfied with the past year, you're always trying to build on it. I'm going to approach the year the same way, the way I have the last three years at least. I'm going to go in, win the job out of training camp. You always have people competing for jobs. When I was in St. Louis I was trying to take people's jobs and make the team. You always have that competition. So I have to go into camp the same way I have been doing the last couple of years. I'm not going to change anything. I'm not going to try to do anything different."

But can you treat this training camp the same way when it's obviously different for you to know that you're heading into the season as the unquestioned No. 1 goalie on a team expected to win? This is a first for you.

"Yeah, I mean, if you word it like that it's a first, but personally the way I prepare and the way I play, there hasn't been a change from when I was a backup, or when I was able to start in Ottawa for a month, or last year when I was a starter for the season. You still approach every game the same way. Whatever is going on around you as far as expectations, where you are in the standings, if you're first or last, who you're playing against, I still approach the game the same way. There is nothing different. It's the same routine and preparation no matter where I am, if I am a backup in Ottawa or a starter last year. So I don't see there really being any difference going into this season. I think the experience last year will help me even more this year."

You were a college hockey goalie, a prospect and a backup for quite a while, and you were traded twice. Did you ever wonder if you would get to this position that you're in now?

"I wouldn't say I was certain, but I could see myself getting better each year. There's luck that goes into this too. Unless you're a first-rounder and you know you're going to have the opportunity there is some luck. There are only 60 positions like this in the world and I got a little bit lucky. If Craig Anderson doesn't cut his hand in the kitchen in Ottawa and I don't get traded to Ottawa, I don't know if it works out the way it's worked out. You've gotta put in the hard work in the offseason and during the year and if you do that good things are going to happen. I always had people along the way saying this was going to happen and encouraging me that it was going to work out, and after hard work and a little bit of luck it's all worked out. It's crazy to think that if Craig doesn't do that to his hand where I would be."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer