The Isles open up a two-game road trip as they face tough opponents in the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and Washington Capitals on Monday. The Bolts and Caps are two of the NHL's top-three teams and are two of five teams with over 70 points in the standings. This a measuring stick road trip for the Islanders, who enter Saturday's game with 68 points.
On Thursday evening, the Islanders rallied from behind to grab a crucial two points and defeat the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 at Barclays Center. Kieffer Bellows scored twice, including his first NHL goal and his first game-winner. Michael Dal Colle, Matt Martin and Anders Lee also scored. Thomas Greiss made 22 saves.
Tampa won their fifth-straight game with a 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday. Mikhail Sergachev, Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli, and Nikita Kucherov scored while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 29 saves. The Lighting close out a three-game homestand as they host the Isles on Saturday.
MORNING SKATE UPDATES:
- Semyon Varlamov was the first goaltender off at morning skate and is the projected starter to face Tampa. Varlamov has made 28 starts this season and has a record of 16-8-4. Varlamov has faced Tampa once this season on Dec. 9 and recorded 31 saves in the Isles 5-1 win.
- Tampa defenseman Ryan McDonagh sustained a lower-body injury against Pittsburgh and will be out a couple of weeks as confirmed by Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. In McDonagh's absence, Tampa recalled Cameron Gaunce from their AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch. Through 47 games with Syracuse, Gaunce has four goals and 28 points.
- Dal Colle opened up scoring for the Isles and scored his fourth goal of the season. The winger extended his point streak to three games (2G, 1A), the first three-game point streak of his NHL career. Through 38 games this season, Dal Colle has 10 points (4G, 6A).
- Bellows scored his first and second NHL goals on Thursday, including the first game-winning goal of his career. The 21-year-old winger is the first player since Anders Lee to record at least a point in each of their first two games in Islander history.
- Martin found the back of the net for the fourth time this season. The winger has seven points through 40 games.
- Lee registered a two-point (1G, 1A) night as he scored an empty-netter to seal the victory and registered his 17th goal of the season. The Isles captain has 31 points through 52 games.
- Brassard had two assists on the night and has three points (1G, 2A) in his last two games.
- Brock Nelson recorded an assist and extended his point streak to three games. The center has four points (1G, 3A) during that span.
- Devon Toews played in his 100th-career game and registered an assist against the Kings. The defenseman added his third assist in as many games.
- Ryan Pulock had an assist and recorded his 100th-career point. The defenseman has 27 goals and 73 assists in his career. In the process, Pulock extended his point streak to four games with four assists in that span. Pulock leads the Isles blueline in assists with 21 this season and has 27 points through 52 games.
- Greiss made his 24th start of the season and improved his record to 15-7-2. The win was Greiss' 100th as an Islander, making him the fifth goalie in team history to record 100 wins.
- The win improved the Isles point streak to five games. The Isles are 3-0-2 in their last five games; it's their longest point streak since their 17-game streak in October/November.
- The Lightning have been rolling over the past month and a half. Since Dec. 23, the Lightning have gone 17-2-1 in their last 20 games, which included a 10-game winning streak from Dec. 23 to Jan. 11. In that time, the Lightning went from sixth in the Atlantic Division to second, claiming 35 of a possible 40 points.
- Sergachev opened up scoring for the Lightning as he scored his eighth goal of the season. The Russian blueliner has 27 points (8G, 19A) through 54 games.
- Stamkos found the back of the net for the 25th time this season and is tied for the team lead in goals with Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos also extended his point streak to nine games with 14 points (8G, 6A) over that span and has goals in his last three games. Through 51 games this season, Tampa's captain has 58 points.
- Cirelli scored for the 14th time this season and extended his point streak to five games with six points (2G, 4A) during that span.
- Kucherov scored his 25th goal of the season to tie with Stamkos for the team lead in scoring. Kucherov's two-point night extended his point streak to nine games with 16 points (8G, 8A). Kucherov leads the Lightning in points with 65 points through 53 games.
- Vasilevskiy made his 40th start of the season and improved his record to 28-9-3. The netminder also assisted on Kucherov's goal.
- Victory Hedman had three assists to break a four-game point drought. The Swedish defenseman has 45 points (9G, 36A) through 52 games.
- Tampa's fifth-ranked power play in the NHL (24.6%) went 0-for-4 against Pittsburgh, but their third-ranked PK unit in the NHL (84.4%) went 5-for-5.
- Tampa averages the third-most goals for per game in the NHL with a nightly average of 3.59.
The Isles have won both games of the season series over Tampa this season. The Islanders won the first meeting on Nov. 1 with a 5-2 result at NYCB Live and claimed a 5-1 result over the Lighting at Amalie Arena on Dec. 9.
The Islanders haven't beat the Lightning three times in a season since 2013 and haven't beat the Lightning twice in Tampa since the 2010-11 season.