ISLANDERS (11-12-3) at LIGHTNING (11-14-1)
TV: MSG, SUN
Last 10: New York 5-3-2; Tampa Bay 3-7-0
Season series: This is the second of three meetings. The Islanders earned a 4-3 victory against the Lightning on Jan. 21 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Big story: It’s a battle between a pair of teams fighting to get into playoff position. The Isles have picked up points in seven of their past 10 games and are three points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning are trying to get back on track and sit five points back.
Islanders: New York closed out its seven-game homestand in winning fashion Saturday against the Washington Capitals, but the first of a three-game road trip Sunday wasn’t nearly as kind. Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby each tallied five points as the Isles suffered a 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
It was the fifth game in seven days for New York, so perhaps fatigue played a role. Still, points are needed almost on a nightly basis if the Islanders are going to qualify for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“There’s not much hockey left to be played,” said coach Jack Capuano, whose club has 22 games remaining this season. “It’s all business as usual. We talked about it. I thought we had some good meetings this week with our team and individual players. We know the importance of going down to Tampa and Florida (Saturday).”
Lightning: Tampa Bay avoided a three-game losing streak and what would have been its eighth loss in nine games Tuesday, even though it only managed 13 shots on goal. Steven Stamkos snapped a 2-2 tie early in the third period with his 20th goal of the season as the Lightning notched a 3-2 victory against the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers peppered Anders Lindback with 39 shots on goal, but the Lightning goalie still managed to improve to 4-0-0 lifetime against Florida.
"We told the players before the game most probably they're going to outshoot us because they're shooting from everywhere," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "But we've got to stay poised and we've got to make sure that we keep the game tight in our zone, which we did in the third period. ... And we kept the lead. And that was so important for our team. We did it the right way, too. That was a great third period."
Who's hot: Islanders center John Tavares has three goals and an assist in the past five games, while linemate Matt Moulson is 1-3-4 over the same span. … Stamkos has scored in three straight contests and has five goals in the past five.
Injury report: Isles winger Jesse Joensuu (sports hernia) is skating with the club and could make his season debut against Tampa Bay. Forward Michael Grabner (shoulder) is expected to miss at least 7-10 days, while defensemen Matt Carkner (groin) and Brian Strait (ankle) are out indefinitely. … Benoir Pouliot is on injured reserve for the Lightning due to an upper-body injury.
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