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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Lightning

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Three days after their first loss in six games, all the New York Islanders want to do is get back on the ice to make amends.

They may have had to wait a few days for a second crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Islanders will get their chance at revenge tonight at 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.  

“I thought we played a pretty good game in Tampa. We stayed right with them,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We had a couple of breakdowns and that was the difference in the game I know this team and the more we play, the better we are.”

The Islanders played the Lightning in the second game of a back-to-back set Saturday, but the tables are turned tonight, as the Isles are rested, while the Bolts play their second game in two nights. “Rested” teams (teams that did not play the night before) hold a 39-16-13 record when facing teams who played the previous night. The Islanders hope to use that statistic – and fresh legs – to their advantage tonight.

“We get them on the back-to-back this time and we just want to be ready to play,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “[We have to] just try to be a little bit more physical on the offensive side, on the fore check, be a little bit harder on them and try to generate a little more on our cycle.”

Capuano said he’ll be adjusting the top power-play unit to bust out of a 1-for-16 slump. The coach had Johnny Boychuk and Frans Nielsen practicing on the top unit.

While the Islanders are a top-10 team in goals (54), the Lightning counter with the NHL’s most potent offense, with 71 goals (including shootout winners) in 19 games (3.7 per game).

“We have to make sure that we buckle down defensively,” Capuano said. “We’re not looking to get into a track meet with them, we’re looking to play our game.”

While most conversations about the Tampa Bay offense begin with Steven Stamkos, the Lightning boast a well-balanced attack. Sophomores Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat have all stepped up after impressive rookie campaigns. Johnson is second in team scoring with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists), Palat has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 19 games and Kucherov  (seven goals, nine assists) is two points shy of matching his output from last season in a fraction of the games.

“[Nikita] Kucherov is a real tricky player,” Tavares said. “He's got some great hands. He's very creative. [Tyler] Johnson is just a very underrated, smart player. He always seems to be in the right spot, very high hockey IQ and, obviously, can produce. Those couple guys can make a lot of plays and on their back end, they just have guys with a lot of size who move the puck well."

The Lightning are still without top defenseman Victor Hedman and it is unclear which of their two goaltenders will play Tuesday. Ben Bishop played last night against the Rangers, potentially opening the door for former Islander Evgeni Nabokov to play at the Coliseum.

The Islanders and Lightning face off at 7 p.m. 
New York Islanders
11-6-0 (22 points – 2nd in Metropolitan Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)
4-2-0 home
Tampa Bay Lightning
13-4-2 (28 points - 2nd in Atlantic Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
6-2-1 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Uniondale, NY

Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders Prospect Report

What's Happening at the Coliseum:

- Doors at 5:45pm
- Lower Lobby 5pm
- Charity of the Game – Henry Viscardi Center

Islanders player to watch
Josh Bailey - Forward

Josh Bailey hasn’t missed a beat since returning from an eight-game absence, notching a goal and an assist in his first two games back. The Bowmanville, ON, native scored the Islanders second goal against the Lightning on Saturday and has points in four straight games (one goal, three assists), dating back before his hand injury. Bailey has six points (three goals, three assists) in nine games this season.
Lightning player to watch
Tyler Johnson - Forward

Tyler Johnson is building off a breakout rookie season with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 19 games in his sophomore season with the Lightning. Johnson is tied with Steven Stamkos for the team lead in scoring and has 19 points (five goals, 15 assists) over his past 16 games. The 5’9, 182 lbs. center scored against the Islanders and went 15-for-21 (71%) in the face-off circle on Saturday night in Tampa.
New York Islanders previous game lines
86 Nikolay Kulemin 91 John Tavares 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee 
18 Ryan Strome 29 Brock Nelson
12 Josh Bailey51 Frans Nielsen84 Mikhail Grabovski
17 Matt Martin – 
53 Casey Cizikas 89 Cory Conacher


44 Calvin de Haan 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy
55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
11 Lubomir Visnovsky

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson

Tampa Bay Lightning previous game lines
51 Valtteri Filppula - 91 Steven Stamkos - 24 Ryan Callahan
18 Ondrej Palat - 9 Tyler Johnson - 86 Nikita Kucherov
27 Jonathan Drouin - 90 Vladislav Namestnikov - 17 Alex Killorn
10 Brenden Morrow - 11 Brian Boyle - 13 Cedric Paquette

6 Anton Stralman - 25 Matt Carle
5 Jason Garrison - 7 Radko Gudas
8 Mark Barberio - 62 Andrej Sustr

30 Ben Bishop
20 Evgeni Nabokov

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