The tenure of Kevin Poulin riding the pine as backup goalie in Tampa Bay may be nearing an end, and not by way of him getting a start... Though two back-to-back series are on the Lightning's schedule in the course of the next week (Friday and Saturday against Winnipeg and Chicago, then next Saturday and Sunday against Boston and Carolina), news is out that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is off blood thinners and will return to practice with the team next week.
That doesn't slate him for an immediate return to duty on the Lightning bench though. He does need some conditioning time. From Joe Smith at the Tampa Bay Times:
Vasilevskiy would still need some conditioning games with AHL Syracuse, which happens to play Oct 28 and Oct 30 next week. The thought was that Vasilevskiy might be able to return in early November, if all goes well.
That timeline seems a little quick-quick unless he's sent on conditioning before the Lightning return to Tampa Bay (their last game of the road trip is October 27th at Scottrade Center in St. Louis). A conditioning stint, not an outright demotion, can last two weeks total and seems like a good amount of time for a goalie to serve (especially a goalie that missed training camp entirely).
Will it happen that way though? Circumstances were part of the reason forward Jonathan Drouin had a short conditioning stint with the Syracuse Crunch last season after a finger-break and no preseason play, those circumstances being other injuries that limited the roster. A forward's finger-break and lost practice time pales to a goalie suffering a blood clot and missing training camp and the preseason entirely. Giving him starts and practice time with the AHL club (more than a few days worth) would likely be a plus in honing the guy.
An ETA of early November still is pretty factual. If it's an expedited arrival (two starts, then a recall) is one thing, though. Having Vasy sharpen his skills at the AHL level before rejoining the Lightning is another.
Ben Bishop does need a break, though. It's hard to tell if he'd get it even with Vasilevskiy back on the roster and part of the team. Not right away, at least... Not until he wins the confidence of head coach Jon Cooper that he can do the deed. It's also probable that with or without Cooper's trust to start, Kevin Poulin's time as Ben Bishop's backkup is nearing its end.