Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is self-conscious about his inability to speak English fluently, so the 20-year-old Russian politely declines to allow television cameras to capture his interviews after games and practices.
"Yeah, I still speak not really good for cameras. But for writers, yeah," he said Friday. "For you, you can change words."
Vasilevskiy might not be ready for his close-up, but he's ready if needed to start a second straight Stanley Cup Final game for the Lightning on Saturday at Amalie Arena.
Usual starter Ben Bishop, who was injured in Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks, pushed through an unidentified injury in Game 3 and ruled himself out of Game 4, didn't practice with the team Friday at the Ice Sports Forum.
Coach Jon Cooper said not to be alarmed that Bishop didn't practice and said Bishop is feeling better after an extra day's rest following Game 4 on Wednesday, but Cooper acknowledged he’s not sure if Bishop will be able to start Saturday, with the Final tied at two games each.
"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,'" Cooper said Friday. "This was all in the plan. We'll have a better indication [Saturday] at the morning skate."
Vasilevskiy was credited with the win in the Lightning’s 4-3 victory in Game 2, stopping five shots in two stints totaling nine minutes and 13 seconds. In Game 4, he stopped 17 shots as the Blackhawks won, 2-1, and made the Cup Final a best-of-three series.
Asked to evaluate how he played in Game 4, he said, "I think well." He added: "When you play first game for last two months and in Stanley Cup Final, it's a little bit tough. But overall I feel good. I was ready for big pressure on me. I'm OK. Just mentally in my head [it] was good too."
Center Steve Stamkos said the rest of the team was impressed with Vasilvekiy's poise and performance in Game 4.
"It was a very tough situation for a young goaltender to come in and be thrown into," Stamkos said. "We’ve got confidence in him."
Vasilevskiy said he has confidence in himself and is ready to play Saturday in such a crucial game.
"That's why I'm here in North America, just to play hockey. The last two days I have more fun than all season," he said. "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."
The Blackhawks practiced in Chicago and were scheduled to hold a news conference in Tampa late Friday.