TAMPA -- When the Lightning unpacked their bags and settled in at home 14 days ago, they had some serious hopes of making the playoffs. Now, heading into the final game of their season-long, seven-game homestand against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, they are perilously closer to falling into the Eastern Conference cellar rather than finding the postseason.
Going 2-4-0 is not how Tampa Bay hoped this series of games would play out, and they are now a mere two points ahead of the Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens at the bottom of the standings.
To make matters more difficult for the Lightning, New York arrives in the midst of a minor revival, seeking their first three-game win streak since Jan. 17-21. They have racked up consecutive road wins over Montreal and Toronto and are 3-1-1 in their last five away games.
“Those last two wins are building blocks,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We got contributions from lots of guys and that’s how you are going to win in this League.”
Saturday features the fourth and final matchup this season between these clubs, and the home team won each of the first three meetings. The Islanders have outscored the Lightning 11-6 thus far in the series.
Tampa Bay will continue to field two forward lines composed primarily of recalled AHL players, as none of the seven regulars on the injured list are ready to return. Despite the depleted lineup his club will face, Capuano still sees the game as a good test for the Islanders.
“Yes, the Lightning are beat up,” Capuano said, “but they still have lots of firepower up front. The key for us is to keep guys out of the penalty box.”
Capuano might be looking at some old numbers; after a brief five-game spurt during which their power play converted six times on 15 attempts, the Lightning have reverted back to their season-long form of 15.5 percent -- 24th in the League -- having scored only once in their last 14 extra-man opportunities.
Here are the projected lineups for both teams:
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Josh Bailey - Frans Neilson - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Casey Cizikas - David Ullstrom
Nino Niederreiter - Marty Reasoner - Matt Martin
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Streit - Dylan Reese
Mark Eaton - Steve Staios
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Trevor Smith - JT Wyman
Brandon Segal - Pierre-Cedric Labrie
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Lee - Bruno Gervais